This is not the story of an idea that arrived like a bolt from the blue. Instead, it all started 20 years ago when researchers from the Center for Playware at DTU Electrical Engineering teamed up with LEGO and began developing modular robots equipped with user-friendly technology.
Today, the researchers have succeeded in combining the modular robots with artificial intelligence to create a series of interactive robot tiles that can be used as an illuminated hop-scotch grid where users can jump from colour to colour.
This playful and motivational layout of robot tiles can thus help elderly people to improve their muscular strength and balance skills, and can also be used in the rehabilitation of children with physical and mental disabilities in Africa and Asia.
“The driving force for me is to see the societal effect of the tiles. I can see that elderly people forget their fear of falling, and that African children with physical and mental disabilities leave their cares behind for a while,” relates Professor Henrik Hautop Lund from DTU Electrical Engineering.
Creativity on the curriculum
The Center for Playware has developed the technology in partnership with Entertainment Robotics. It comprises a series of wireless tiles, each containing a micro-computer, a battery and eight coloured LEDs.
The Municipality of Gentofte was recently awarded DKK 6.5 million in funding to implement the ‘tile game’ for elderly residents in the Municipalities of Gentofte, Frederiksberg, Odsherred, Furesø, and Fakse. The technology has even greater potential, however, as Henrik Hautop Lund explains:
“I believe that playware technology—such as that used in the robot tiles—has enormous potential in the education sector, where the tiles can help put more creativity on the school curriculum,” he says.
“I also think it’s becoming more generally accepted that playware technology helps boost life quality in treatment processes. Our tests have already revealed that if elderly people play with the robot tiles just 13 times, they experience an improvement in their balance skills of more than 60 per cent.”