The rise in the proportion of older people in society makes it of increasing economic and social importance to understand how to maintain the health of the aging mind. One way is to offer them the opportunity to engage in mentally stimulating activities. Serious interactive games can be useful for this. So far, most of them have been implemented via tablets, which are a cost-effective solution but offer limited possibilities to truly engage those users in a multimodal way. Some studies have found that older adults complain about the complexity of both hardware and software, which can be problematic due to their age-related cognitive and physical limitations.
Humanoid robots, thanks to their morphological characteristics and multimodal interaction, can open up new possibilities to involve the elderly more effectively. Therefore, they appear to have the potential to help formal and informal caregivers monitor and support the older adults by providing a mixture of empathy, motivation, encouragement and companionship. The vision of this project is to develop a new solution of serious games that helps the elderly to maintain their cognitive and social functional level by increasing their prospect of living independently longer. The combination of innovative technological solutions, including humanoid robots, and knowledge on age-related cognitive fragility, will create a solution with a potential positive effect on known key indicators of independent living, such as cognitive performance (e.g. memory, attention and processing speed), walking speed and balance.
The humanoid robots will act as personal trainers, proposing exercises and communicating through various modalities and stimulating users in cognitive games relevant to their daily life. One aspect that will be carefully considered is that of the personality, both of the elderly and that manifested by the robot. In this regard we will consider personality traits most considered in the literature. So, for example, we will have the possibility of a robot that will play with a more or less introverted personality, and we will investigate if this can influence and how the involvement of the older adults in games. The personality will manifest itself both in verbal (e.g. volume, tone, speed, rhythm, length of expressions) and non-verbal (e.g. gestures, sounds, movements) communication.
The SERENI (SERious gamEs with a humanoi robot in a cogNItive training) research project is carried out at the HIIS Laboratory of CNR-ISTI , in collaboration with the Neuroscience Institute of CNR
CNR – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
HIIS – Human Interfaces in Information Systems laboratory
Via G. Moruzzi, 1 Pisa 56124
Project Coordinator: Fabio Paternò
email: fabio.paterno [at] isti [dot] cnr [dot] it