Ageing has been prioritised as a key demographic element affecting the population development within the EU member states. Experts and users agree that Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) and Social and Service Robots (SSR) have the potential to become key components in coping with Europe’s demographic changes in the coming years. From all past experiences with service robots, it is evident that acceptance, usability and affordability will be the prime factors for any successful introduction of such technology into the homes of older people.
While world players in home care robotics tend to follow a pragmatic approach such as single function systems (USA) or humanoid robots (Japan, Korea), we introduce a new, more user-centred concept called “Mutual Care”: By providing a possibility for the Human to “take care” of the robot like a partner, real feelings and affections toward it will be created. It is easier to accept assistance from a robot when in certain situations, the Human can also assist the machine. In turn, older users will more readily accept the help of the HOBBIT robot. Close cooperation with institutional caregivers will enable the consortium to continuously improve acceptance and usability.
In contrast to current approaches, “HOBBIT, the mutual care robot”, will offer practical and tangible benefits for the user with a price tag starting below 14.000 €. This offers the realistic chance for HOBBIT to refinance itself in about 18-24 months (in comparison with nursing institutions or 24hr home care). In addition, HOBBIT has the potential to delay institutionalisation of older persons by at least two years which will result in a general strengthening of the competitiveness of the European economy. We will insure that the concept of HOBBIT seeds a new robotic industry segment for “aging well” in the European Union. The use of standardised industrial components and the participation of two leading industrial partners will ensure the exploitation of HOBBIT.