Entrepreneurial Research Initiative: Augmented Human
Coaching and Monitoring
More than 30 young and senior researchers from both
sides of the Atlantic, Portugal and United States (Pittsburgh), are involved on
the Entrepreneurial Research Initiative (ERI) that seeks to build an
intelligent robotic coach to assist people in exercise programs for active
aging and rehabilitation.
|Led by Alexandre Bernardino, from Instituto Superior
Técnico (IST), Asim Smailagic, and Daniel P. Siewiorek, both from Carnegie
Mellon University (CMU), the ERI titled “Augmented Human Assistance” (AHA) involves
two dual degree Ph.D. students: João Guilherme Antunes Martins (who is
on his 2nd year) and Min Hun
Lee (who is on his 1st year). Both doctoral students at the end of
their studies will receive a diploma from IST and CMU.
With approximately one year and a half of activity, the research team has published 10 papers, has been
working closely with its partner companies and advisory board, and has already
collected exercise data from end users that tested its technology. We have
talked with the principal investigators of this initiative, which has a
timeframe of four year of research work. The ERI AHA is carried out in the auspices of the CMU Portugal Program, funded by Fundação para a Ciência
e a Tecnologia (FCT).
Portugal Program: How do you comment on this first year of activity of the ERI?
Augmented Human Assistance Principal
Investigators (AHA PIs): The first year was very active and
exciting. We had many meetings and discussions with great enthusiasm, that led
to a common view of the project goals. This was the first time some of the
partners worked together, so meetings and discussions also led to mutual
learning and discovery. Since our team is highly complementary and
multi-disciplinary, all partners certainly learned a lot from each other and
got their complementariness strengthened. We are all very motivated and
committed to the project and driven to put together all the different pieces of
work, and give life to our exciting goal: an intelligent robotic coach to
assist people in exercise programs for active aging and rehabilitation
“We have been
working with end-user groups (…) to collect exercise data to evaluate and
validate the developed methods, and in a senior sports facility (…) where we
tested a prototype with 17 end users.” AHA PIs
CMU Portugal Program: What outcomes can be communicated so
AHA PIs: We have already several publications in
conferences and journals, reporting the scientific components of the project.
We got also some appearances in the press, where some robotic demonstrations
were already presented. We had contact with the research community in talks in
conferences and workshops, including a booth at a conference for distributing
information about the project. We have been working with end-user groups at Faculdade
de Motricidade Humana (FMH) to collect exercise data to evaluate and validate
the developed methods, and in a senior sports facility in Madeira, where we
tested a prototype with 17 end users.
CMU Portugal Program: This ERI has an Advisory Board, what
has been its role?
AHA PIs: Yes. We have an advisory board composed by members of
academia, technological companies, health clinics and end users. We had our
first meeting in May 2015 where the advisors had the first contact with the
project and started to form an idea of the objectives and the way the project
is expected to progress during the years. The advisors also presented their
works so we could understand each other more effectively. At the end of the
meeting, they provided suggestions for improvements in the project activities
and overall directions. These meetings will be held every year, and we hope to
improve continuously from the benefits of this collaboration.
CMU Portugal Program: What has been the role of the partner
companies involved so far?
AHA PIs: Partner companies have been very active in the
project promotion, and are playing an extremely helpful role in the
specification of the requirements according to their experience in market
trends and product constraints. They have been providing hardware and software
platforms for the development of prototypes. In this first phase of the
project, PLUX provided
different types of sensors that will allow to study the patients
electrophysiological activities, and promoted internal workshops to explain the
functionalities and modes of utilization of such devices. This is also very useful for the company to
improve its products.
Portugal Program: What are the major activities scheduled for the next year?
AHA PIs: The project milestones set for the
second year are related to the virtual coaching technology and augmented
reality games. Further, it will be a period when most of technical integration
activities among partners and services will take place. We are aiming at a
system able to motivate, engage and assess the physical fitness of the users
using more interactive and immersive experiences. This requires a complex
technical infrastructure and system architecture that is being put in place. In
parallel we will keep improving the robotic platforms in preparation for the
third year milestone: the robot coach.
actively in the project, driving technological innovation with a high potential
in the consumer market.” – AHA PIs
CMU Portugal Program: Now that a year has passed, what do you feel
that are the main differences between an ERI and other research projects?
AHA PIs: There is certainly a bigger emphasis in close to
market technologies and we must be permanently looking for product
opportunities that companies can exploit. So part of the effort must be put on
driving technologies up in the Technological Readiness Level looking for
exploitation opportunities. Because of this, companies are actively in the
project, driving technological innovation with a high potential in the consumer
market. Apart from this, things are not much different, and there is always
space to do fundamental research and drive ideas for longer-term applications.
Entrepreneurial Research Initiatives (ERIs) are projects in science, engineering, management and policy that link both fundamental and applied research to technological innovation and economic development. This bridging is pursued by explicitly focusing on important real world problems entailing significant scientific challenges - more