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Section: Overall Objectives

Overall Objectives

HEPHAISTOS has been created as a team on January 1st, 2013 and will probably become a project team in 2015.

The goal of the project is to set up a generic methodology for the design and evaluation of an adaptable and interactive assistive ecosystem for the elderly and the vulnerable persons that provides furthermore assistance to the helpers, on-demand medical data and may manage emergency situations. More precisely our goals are to develop devices with the following properties:

  • they can be adapted to the end-user and to its everyday environment

  • they should be affordable and minimally intrusive

  • they may be controlled through a large variety of simple interfaces

  • they may eventually be used to monitor the health status of the end-user in order to detect emerging pathology

Assistance will be provided through a network of communicating devices that may be either specifically designed for this task or be just adaptation/instrumentation of daily life objects.

The targeted population is limited to people with mobility impairments (for the sake of simplicity this population will be denoted by elderly in the remaining of this document although our work deal also with a variety of people (e.g. handicapped or injured people, ...)) and the assistive devices will have to support the individual autonomy (at home and outdoor) by providing complementary resources in relation with the existing capacities of the person. Personalization and adaptability are key factor of success and acceptance. Our long term goal will be to provide robotized devices for assistance, including smart objects, that may help disabled, elderly and handicapped people in their personal life.

Assistance is a very large field and a single project-team cannot address all the related issues. Hence HEPHAISTOS will focus on the following main societal challenges:

  • mobility: previous interviews and observations in the HEPHAISTOS team have shown that this was a major concern for all the players in the ecosystem. Mobility is a key factor to improve personal autonomy and reinforce privacy, perceived autonomy and self-esteem

  • managing emergency situations: emergency situations (e.g. fall) may have dramatic consequences for elderly. Assistive devices should ideally be able to prevent such situation and at least should detect them with the purposes of sending an alarm and to minimize the effects on the health of the elderly

  • medical monitoring: elderly may have a fast changing trajectory of life and the medical community is lacking timely synthetic information on this evolution, while available technologies enable to get raw information in a non intrusive and low cost manner. We intend to provide synthetic health indicators, that take measurement uncertainties into account, obtained through a network of assistive devices. However respect of the privacy of life, protection of the elderly and ethical considerations impose to ensure the confidentiality of the data and a strict control of such a service by the medical community.

  • rehabilitation and biomechanics: our goals in rehabilitation are 1) to provide more objective and robust indicators, that take measurement uncertainties into account to assess the progress of a rehabilitation process 2) to provide processes and devices (including the use of virtual reality) that facilitate a rehabilitation process and are more flexible and easier to use both for users and doctors. Biomechanics is an essential tool to evaluate the pertinence of these indicators, to gain access to physiological parameters that are difficult to measure directly and to prepare efficiently real-life experiments

Addressing these societal focus induces the following scientific objectives:

  • design and control of a network of connected assistive devices: existing assistance devices suffer from a lack of essential functions (communication, monitoring, localization,...) and their acceptance and efficiency may largely be improved. Furthermore essential functions (such as fall detection, knowledge sharing, learning, adaptation to the user and helpers) are missing. We intend to develop new devices, either by adapting existing systems or developing brand-new one to cover these gaps. Their performances, robustness and adaptability will be obtained through an original design process, called appropriate design, that takes uncertainties into account to determine almost all the nominal values of the design parameters that guarantee to obtain the required performances. The development of these devices covers our robotics works (therefore including robot analysis, kinematics, control, ...) but is not limited to them. These devices will be present in the three elements of the ecosystem (user, technological helps and environment) and will be integrated in a common network The study of robotics problems is a major focus point of the HEPAHAISTOS project. In this field our objectives are:

    • to develop methods for the analysis of existing robots, taking into account uncertainties in their modeling that are inherent to such mechatronic devices

    • to propose innovative robotic systems

  • evaluation, modeling and programming of assistive ecosystem: design of such an ecosystem is an iterative process which relies on different types of evaluation. A large difference with other robotized environments is that effectiveness is not only based on technological performances but also on subjectively perceived dimensions such as acceptance or improvement of self-esteem. We will develop methodologies that cover both evaluation dimensions. Technological performances are still important and modeling (especially with symbolic computation) of the ecosystem will play a major role for the design process, the safety and the efficiency, which will be improved by a programming/communication framework than encompass all the assistance devices. Evaluation will be realized with the help of clinical partners in real-life or by using our experimental platforms

  • uncertainty management: uncertainties are especially present in all of our activities (sensor, control, physiological parameters, user behavior, ...). We intend to systematically take them into account especially using interval analysis, statistics, game theory or a mix of these tools

  • economy of assistance: interviews by the HEPHAISTOS team and market analysis have shown that cost is a major issue for the elderly and their family. At the opposite of other industrial sectors manufacturing costs play a very minor role when fixing the price of assistance devices: indeed prices result more from the relations between the players and from regulations. We intend to model these relations in order to analyze the influence of regulations on the final cost

The societal challenges and the scientific objectives will be supported by experimentation and simulation using our development platforms or external resources.

In terms of methodologies the project will focus on the use and mathematical developments of symbolic tools(for modeling, design, interval analysis), on interval analysis, for design, uncertainties management, evaluation), on game theory, for control, localization, economy of assistance) and on control theory. Implementation of the algorithms will be performed within the framework of general purpose software such as Scilab , Maple , Mathematica and the interval analysis part will be based on the existing library ALIAS , that is still being developed mostly for internal use.

Experimental work and the development of our own prototypes are strategic for the project as they allow us to validate our theoretical work and to discover new problems that will feed in the long term the theoretical analysis developed by the team members.

Dissemination is also an essential goal of our activity as its background both on the assistance side and on the theoretical activities as our approaches are not sufficiently known in the medical, engineering and academic communities.

In summary HEPHAISTOS has as major research axes assistance robotics, modeling, game theory, interval analysis and robotics. The coherence of these axis is that interval analysis is a major tool to manage the uncertainties that are inherent to a robotized device, while assistance robotics provides realistic problems which allow us to develop, test and improve our algorithms.