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Oklahoma State University

OSU researchers developing robot for elderly

Wed, December 17, 2014

Two researchers at Oklahoma State University have received a three-year, $725,000 award from the National Science Foundation to develop a new type of social intelligence for robot companions or “co-robots” to help the elderly in assisted living environments.


Dr. Weihua Sheng holds a robot in his lab where he is researching social intelligence for robots being developed at OSU to assist the elderly. To his right and left are current prototypes of robots equipped with cameras and audio sensors to monitor the health and needs of people needing assistance with daily living. The project includes improving the functionality of the prototypes and adding features to make them appear more human.

Drs. Weihua Sheng and Guoliang Fan, researchers in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at OSU, will work to develop a considerate co-robot as part of the National Robotics Initiative (NRI). Their specific objective is a new theoretical and algorithmic framework and an open hardware and software platform that will result in a smarter co-robot.

“The main goal is to develop an intelligent robot that can understand human beings,” says Sheng, who has been focused on robotics research for several years. “Future co-robots could be perfect companions for the elderly population and replace, or at least relieve, human caregivers.”

This new intelligence allows a robot to learn a person's daily activity and location without constantly following him or her, explained Sheng. “The robots should recognize our needs and be able to monitor our health information and eventually send it to the cloud for health monitoring.”


Dr. Weihua Sheng

Sheng’s team currently has a simple prototype that does not have arms and is still far from the finished product, but he is optimistic that the new funding will open opportunities to greatly improve the prototype.

Sheng, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has participated in organizing several international conferences and workshops on intelligent robots and systems. He holds a U.S. patent and is the author of more than 130 papers in major journals and international conferences on robotics and automation. Sheng, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, currently serves as an associate editor for the IEEE Transactions of Automation Science and Engineering.


Dr. Guoliang Fan

Fan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, research interests include signal processing, image processing, machine learning, pattern recognition, computer vision, biomedical imaging and remote sensing applications. He is a senior member of IEEE and associate editor of IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics and EURASIP Journal on Image and Video Processing.

For more information on the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at OSU, visit www.ceat.okstate.edu.