The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to encourage Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) research and development of next-generation socially-assistive robots (SARs) to enhance health and well-being, reduce illness and disability, and improve quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Alzheimer's-disease-related dementias (ADRD), and for caregivers of AD and ADRD patients.
The unique feature of the STTR program is the requirement for the small business to formally collaborate with a non-profit research institution in Phase I and Phase II. The STTR program's most important role is to bridge the gap between performance of basic science and commercialization of resulting innovations.
Specifically, this FOA targets the development of SARs that would function as companion robots providing psychosocial support (e.g., enhancing mood, mitigating the effects of loneliness, and enhancing social connection and communication), physiological interventions (e.g., stress reduction through the provision of biofeedback or other forms of behavioral therapy), and assistance with care management and activities of daily living. To achieve these ends, this FOA encourages a multi-discipline approach to foster collaborations between geriatricians (particularly those with knowledge of cognitive impairment and dementia), psychologists, neurologists, computer scientists, and mechanical, electrical, and software engineering professionals.
NIA anticipates that the development of next-generation SARs would enable AD and ADRD patients and their caregivers to preserve and, to the extent possible, enhance their psychosocial and cognitive coping skills and resources. To these ends, NIA seeks research and development of SARs that would provide capabilities and resources to compensate for AD and ADRD-related challenges and deficits, including the capabilities to interpret and translate cognitive intent (to perform certain activities), make context-based decisions, and help AD/ADRD patients perform activities of daily living. Ultimately, NIA anticipates that these SARs would be capable of remote operation and assist in the delivery of healthcare and social support in settings otherwise lacking the caregiving infrastructure necessary to support AD and ADRD patients.
In particular, NIA seeks applications that aim to:
(1) develop artificial intelligence for SARs to assist families in caring for family members with AD and ADRD and to assist formal care providers helping such families;
(2) design and validate autonomous robotic architecture for older adults with AD and ADRD and other forms of cognitive impairment or apathy;
(3) assess the feasibility, acceptability and tolerance of the robot-mediated intervention;
(4) design and develop robotics platforms that quickly adapt to changes in patients with AD and ADRD patients and to changes in caregivers;
(5) develop intelligent assistive robots for patient care-management (e.g. dispensing medications, monitoring vital signs, and communicating with care givers);
(6) enable and support AD and ADRD patients to live independently and safely in different environments (e.g., urban versus rural homes or in a assisted living facility);
(7) use SARs to promote social interaction and engagement and reduce loneliness among AD and ADRD patients and caregivers;
(8) develop SARs to motivate persons with AD and ADRD, and their caregivers, to be physically active;
(9) assist care providers with awkward, unsafe, and physically stressful care-giving tasks;
(10) provide mobility assistance to AD and ADRD patients; and
(11) develop SARs that are affordable and culturally acceptable in diverse populations.
See Section VIII. Other Information for award authorities and regulations.