Researchers at the University of Hertfordshire are developing a robotic system which will be a suitable companion for older people.

Dr Farshid Amirabdollahian, a senior lecturer in Adaptive Systems and expert in Rehabilitation Robotics and Assistive Technologies at the University is coordinating a new FP7 European project called ACCOMPANY Acceptable Robotics Companions for Ageing Years which will develop a robot to assist with everyday tasks in the home. The principal investigator for this project is Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn who has a substantial track record in human-robot interaction studies and companion robots.

Over the three-year period of the project, the researchers will carry out research in the University's Robot House. They will use a Care-o-bot® 3 to carry out a wide range of studies with older people to assess their requirements and acceptance of the robot as part of an intelligent home environment. Results will then be fed back to adapt the technology so that it better suits user demands and preferences.

"The envisaged relationship between the user and the robot is that of co-learner, whereby the robot and user provide mutual assistance and so that the user is not dominated by technology, but feels empowered by it," said Dr Amirabdollahian. "Our aim is to use the robot to increase independence and quality of life."

The research of the UH team in ACCOMPANY will be based on results from the FP7 project LIREC which has studied since 2008 the development of robots as home assistance for a general user group. In contrast, ACCOMPANY will focus on the specific user group of elderly people.

Other project partners are: Hogeschool Zuyd, Fraunhofer, University of Amsterdam, University of Sienna, MADoPA - a French expert centre and University of Birmingham.

ACCOMPANY is a €4,825,492 FP7 European project. It began last month and is due to end by September 30 2014.

The project is partially funded by the European Commission under the Seventh (FP7 - 2007-2013) Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.