News & Features

Wendy and Stretch

Stretching Their Reach: Robotic Support for Older Individuals

University of Illinois researcher Dr. Wendy Rogers is stretching her work with Stretch the Robot.

The Kinesiology and Community Health professor has received a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute on Aging (National Institutes of Health), for approximately $2.5 million.

The research will be conducted between December 2022 and November 2024 and builds on a Phase I grant that Rogers and Dr. Aaron Edsinger, CEO of Hello Robot, received last year. Other Illinois collaborators on the new grant include Speech and Hearing Science Associate Professor Raksha Mudar and Harshal Mahajan, Assistant Director of Research for the McKechnie Family LIFE Home. Also part of the new team are ClarkLindsey, an independent, senior living community in Urbana, Ill.; Dr. Vy Nguyen, an occupational therapist at Hello Robot; and Dr. Charlie Kemp, director of the Healthcare Robotics Lab at Georgia Tech and CTO of Hello Robot.

Phase I explored the use of Stretch, a research robot designed by Kemp & Edsinger, to support everyday activities through use of a lightweight telescoping arm mounted on a mobile base. That research identified home tasks for which support is needed; developed tools to enable Stretch to effectively perform these tasks; and designed an easy-to-use interface that older adults can use to control Stretch to carry out their desired tasks.

The Phase II grant will advance the capabilities of Stretch, in partnership with ClarkLindsey, focusing on physical and cognitive tasks. The aim is to determine how assistive robots can support the needs of older adults with cognitive impairment in addition to those with mobility impairment. The researchers plan to refine the remote control interface to be used by caregivers, develop autonomous activities for Stretch, and explore Stretch’s utility in a variety of home environments, including common rooms with multiple people. 

The goal is to create a scalable, affordable, flexible Stretch Cognitive and Physical Assistant that can improve the quality of life for older adults with a range of cognitive and physical impairments, the researchers say.

In addition to ClarkLindsey, research and testing for this grant will be conducted at the McKechnie Family LIFE Home on the University of Illinois campus.

back to news