Evaluation Studies of Robotic Rollators by the User Perspective: A Systematic Review
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Background: Robotic rollators enhance the basic functions of established devices by technically advanced physical, cognitive, or sensory support to increase autonomy in persons with severe impairment. In the evaluation of such ambient assisted living solutions, both the technical and user perspectives are important to prove usability, effectiveness and safety, and to ensure adequate device application. Objective: The aim of this systematic review is to summarize the methodology of studies evaluating robotic rollators with focus on the user perspective and to give recommendations for future evaluation studies. Methods: A systematic literature search up to December 31, 2014, was conducted based on the Cochrane Review methodology using the electronic databases PubMed and IEEE Xplore. Articles were selected according to the following inclusion criteria: evaluation studies of robotic rollators documenting human-robot interaction, no case reports, published in English language. Results: Twenty-eight studies were identified that met the predefined inclusion criteria. Large heterogeneity in the definitions of the target user group, study populations, study designs and assessment methods was found across the included studies. No generic methodology to evaluate robotic rollators could be identified. We found major methodological shortcomings related to insufficient sample descriptions and sample sizes, and lack of appropriate, standardized and validated assessment methods. Long-term use in habitual environment was also not evaluated. Conclusions: Apart from the heterogeneity, methodological deficits in most of the identified studies became apparent. Recommendations for future evaluation studies include: clear definition of target user group, adequate selection of subjects, inclusion of other assistive mobility devices for comparison, evaluation of the habitual use of advanced prototypes, adequate assessment strategy with established, standardized and validated methods, and statistical analysis of study results. Assessment strategies may additionally focus on specific functionalities of the robotic rollators allowing an individually tailored assessment of innovative features to document their added value.