Robots help family stay in shape

Robotics technology developed at the University of Plymouth has been used in a BBC documentary designed to help people get in shape and stay healthy.

Six Robots and Us will air on BBC2 on Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 December, and explores how useful robots might be in enhancing the lives of ordinary families.

One of the six families to feature in the programme is from Torpoint, Cornwall, and they were joined at home by a robot developed by academics and technicians from the University.

Over the space of a month, it offered advice on food, fitness and a variety of other factors with the success of the experiment to be revealed when the programme airs.

For the documentary, a revolutionary Pepper robot – rechristened FitBot – was programmed by MEng Robotics graduate Jake Shaw-Sutton to stay in the home and interact with the family.

Jake, who is currently working as a robotics technician at the University, said:

“We needed to create a robot that not only had personality but could also listen to what the family wanted and offer relevant advice. It meant developing new software which used keywords from search engines and then found solutions to diet and exercise queries which it felt would be most appropriate. It has been a really interesting experiment for to be involved with, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the results when the programme is aired.”

The University’s Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems has spent several years developing social robots, which aim to use cutting edge technology in a range of everyday settings.

This has included helping diabetic children accept the nature of their condition, and exploring the effectiveness of robots in teaching people a new language.

It has also involved the creation of a RobotHome, an interdisciplinary hub where the University’s international team of researchers can study human interaction with their family of robots.

Professor of Robotics Tony Belpaeme, who also worked on the Six Robots and Us documentary, said:

“We are still a number of years away from creating robots that are able to interact with people on a deep level. But they certainly have a role to play now in offering support with learning or reminding people about tasks and ambitions. We have already demonstrated this through our existing work, and the technology used in Six Robots and Us provides further evidence of how robots can have a positive impact in our daily lives.”

For more details about Six Robots and Us can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09l63d2.

Work with our robots

The Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems (CRNS) has a range of state-of-the-art robots used in our cognitive, personal and brain-inspired robotics research. The iCub robot is a humanoid robot having the dimensions of a young child. Numerous Aldebaran/SoftBank Nao and Pepper humanoid robots and are used for tutoring tasks and human-robot interaction studies. The SCITOS G5 mobile platform (aka Gioni5) and the Giraff robot are used for experiments on robot companions for the elderly. The Baxter robot is used for work on human-robot cooperation and for neurorobotics studies with the SpiNNaker neuromorphic hardware.

Discover more about the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems

eHealth Productivity and Innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (EPIC)

EPIC is a collaborative project partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund with additional financial support from the South West Academic Health Science Network. University of Plymouth and partners aim to improve the use of eHealth in Cornwall.

We aim to improve the use of technology in both health and social care hoping:

  • to improve health and wellbeing of people in Cornwall 
  • and improve the Cornish economy in this sector. 

The EPIC project started in May 2017 for three years.

Follow #EPICehealth on Twitter