Robots at your service: an AAL Hackathon

Amsterdam was the proud city to host this year’s European Robotics Week (#ERW2016), with its central event “Robots at your Service”, focussed around the societal challenge of “Active & Healthy Ageing”. 

The purpose of this elderly-centric event was to discuss, showcase, design and develop solutions that would help tackle the problems that arise from the growing ageing population. Solutions that prolong independent living and generally improve the quality of home care, through the use of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In a continuous effort to support innovation in the field of active and healthy ageing, the AAL Programme, together with ZonMw, sponsored this event and  awarded the winning team with a cash prize as well as a support to strengthen the commercialisation and market viability of the proposed solution.

The European Commission has identifiedActive & Healthy Ageing as a major societal challenge common to all European countries, and an area which presents considerable potential for Europe to lead the world in providing innovative responses to this challenge.


According to the 2015 Ageing Report from the European Commission, by 2025 more than 20% of Europeans will be 65 or over, with a particularly rapid increase in numbers of over-80s. The costs for professional care are on the rise and the ratio workers vs pensioners are decreasing. This leaves us faced with the challenge to deal with the care for an estimated 84 million people with age-related health problems.

Needless to say, caring for those seniors – physically, emotionally and mentally – will be an enormous undertaking, and experts say there will be a shortage of professionals trained and willing to take on the job.

“As a result, we need to involve the public, young and old, in the discussion”, noted Reinhard Lafrenz, Secretary General of euRobotics. “With a hackathon, multiple panel sessions, exhibition and workshops, the future of elderly care will be shapen – at Robots at your Service.”


It was here where innovative solutions were discussed, designed and developed in a less than 48 hours! The Hack(athon) kick-started with a Talkshow hosted by Alet Klarenbeek interviewing to series of elderly people talking about their lives.

The night continued with an ideation and team formation process hosted by Marta Marzal from Remember to Play. As this was an elderly-centric event, the ideation process was persona-driven supported by a series of Persona Cards

After 40 intense hours, teams were getting ready to pitch their concepts and prototypes to the judges and public at the pop-up pitches!

The Results Were Simply Outstanding

One after another delivered a great pitch showcasing what they’ve come up with in the short space of time. The solutions ranged from Cognitive memory support, robotssupporting people with Alzheimer, Companion autonomous Robotic Assistant, Dementia Awareness Experience using VR, a Healthcloud, a Socially Connected Platform, a bot for people showing early signs of Alzheimer, a 3D printed dog collar, down to a bot that elderly could hit to get rid of all their frustrations about technology!

Best Overall Hack

The judges had a hard time coming up with the Best Overall Hack, but after long deliberation and cross-checking the criteria, they decided that the winner of the Hack for Active & Healthy Ageing was…. Snooooop!


Snoop – as Jurjen Rolf, one of the team members explained – combines the familiarity of a household pet with IoT sensors, connectivity and data processing to introduce lifestyle improvement technologies to the elderly and initiate positive changes in their behaviour.”

As he continued on explaining; “Owning dogs or cats keep us active and give us a way to take care and connect. Taking the dog for walks, feeding it, not only keeps one active but gives a sense of purpose and companionship. Our dog collar has a speaker built-in that gives tips and reminders about taking care of the dog. Based on the dog’s behaviour, the collar gives suggestions like taking walks, meals, games to play.”

Woof woof!

A special thanks to all the people and partners who made this event possible!


Article by Jurjen Söhne


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