Challenges in Designing a Fully Autonomous Socially Assistive Robot for People with Parkinson's Disease


Journal: ACM Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction
Volume: 9

J.R. Wilson and L. Tickle-Degnen and M. Scheutz

Assistive robots are becoming an increasingly important application platform for research in robotics, AI, and HRI, as there is a pressing need to develop systems that support the elderly and people with disabilities, with a clear path to market. Yet, what remains unclear is whether current autonomous systems are already up to the task or whether additional HRI work is needed to make these systems acceptable and useful. In this article, we report our efforts of developing and evaluating an architecture for a fully autonomous robot designed to assist older adults with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in sorting their medications. The main goal for the robot is to aid users in a manner that maintains the autonomy of the user by providing cognitive and social support with varying levels of assistance. We first evaluated the robot with subjects drawn from a pool of university students, which is common practice in experimental work in psychology and HRI. As the results were very positive, we followed up with an evaluation using people with Parkinson’s disease, who surprisingly had mostly negative outcomes. We thus report our analysis of the differences in the evaluations and discuss the challenges for HRI posed by the sources of the negative evaluations: (1) designing a robot to adapt to the many routines the participants use at home, (2) unique needs of participants with PD not present in student participants, and (3) the role of familiar technologies in designing and evaluating a new technology. While it is unlikely, given the current state of technology, that fully autonomous assistive robots for older adults will be available in the near term, we believe that our work exposes a critical need in HRI to involve the target population as early as possible in the design process.

  title={Challenges in Designing a Fully Autonomous Socially Assistive Robot for People with Parkinson's Disease},
  author={J.R. Wilson and L. Tickle-Degnen and M. Scheutz},
  journal={ACM Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction},