Working with side Rice University, IBM is researching a new line of sensors, that might, in the future be the foundation of robots that help to care for senior citizens.

The project is aiming to fill a growing need for ways to help elderly people be more healthy and independent, says Susanne Keohane, senior technologist at IBM Research.

“If you slap and Apple Watch on an 88-year-old, that’s not feasible for most 88-year-olds,” she says in an interview with Business Insider. “That’s just not in their world.”

According to her, this new technology must be simple and intuitive for the elderly to use it in the day to day activities. IBM is trying to achieve this by creating sensors that detect variations in motion, scent and audio signs which can mean that something is wrong with the senior citizens that live alone.

The IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (IBM MERA) prototype which is being developed and tested at the “Aging in Place” lab in Austin, Texas, lab which was built to mimic an older person home.

The sensors can pick up a myriad of environmental factors, such as stove’s burners being on or a person falling down, can read facial expression and vital signs and has speech recognition.

The robot is still in early development, as much more research is necessary before release to the open market and a way to have the robot used to its potential new owner are still being developed.

“In the near-term, it would be more of the ambient sensors in the home starting to gather all of this data,” Keohanes stated.

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