The ExCITE project methodology is highly inspired by a user-centric approach used for prototyping, validating and refining a solution in both multiple and evolving real contexts. In order for the results of the evaluations to be significant, prototype deployment must consider a large scale and a longitudinal perspective.
This is possible in ExCITE because (1) a Giraff prototype designed to accommodate future needs already exists, (2) the members in the ExCITE project are geographically distributed in Italy, Spain and Sweden and (3) the end-user participation is closely tied to the consortium and project activities. Healthy adult volunteers have been selected at different end-user test sites. Each end user site has received a prototype to be tried and used for a period of time (up to 1 year). Currently test sites are on-going and the Giraff has already been improved technically and in user interface to address the challenges encountered. Feedback shows a very positive response from elderly and families and outlines the challenges in penetrating the organisations.
The main objective of ExCITE is to evaluate user requirements of social interaction that enables embodiment through robotic telepresence. This evaluation is performed on a Pan-European scale and with a longitudinal perspective. An existing prototype is deployed to the targeted end users, and is refined by tightly involving the users in the development cycles of the prototype throughout the project.
The technology used in the evaluation is called the Giraff robot, a telepresence device that allows anyone – professional caregivers, family and friends to virtually visit a home, move about freely and communicate with residents via videoconferencing technology.
Expected results and impact
The ExCITE project will achieve a breakthrough in the application of telerobotics to elderly care by developing a low-cost, easy-to-use device with practical functionality. By focusing on simple audio-visual communications via a mobile platform, the Giraff achieves practicality and a price point that enables large-scale home deployment. By focusing on the main objective of user involvement and assessment of requirements, it will also be an eminently usable device.
The project is also expected to allow researchers in clinical and academic fields to advance their understanding of acceptable forms for social interaction in the ageing process.