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Socially-Assistive Robots for Alzheimer’s (SARA)

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R43AG066288-01
Agency Tracking Number: R43AG066288
Amount: $1,159,916.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIA
Solicitation Number: PAR18-186
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-09-15
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-08-31
Small Business Information
Cambridge, MA 02138-4556
United States
DUNS: 115243701
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (617) 491-3474
Business Contact
Phone: (617) 491-3474
Research Institution

Project Summary/AbstractThe objective of this Phase I Socially-Assistive Robots for Alzheimer’s (SARA) effort is to design and
demonstrate the feasibility of a socially integrative and supportive robot system to enhance the connectedness,
caregiving, well-being, and quality of life of older adults experiencing early to middle stage Alzheimer’s disease
(AD) and AD-related dementias (ADRD). One in 10 people 65 and older has AD, with estimates of up to as many
as 5.5 million Americans currently living with AD. Because of the loss of cognitive function and subsequent
changes in employment and reduced engagement with social groups and hobbies, AD/ADRD patients often
experience loneliness and social isolation, and the considerable challenge of caring for these individuals often
causes similar effects in caregivers. If successful, SARA will have significant impact on AD/ADRD patient care
and quality of life, reducing loneliness and social isolation.The specific aims of this two-year pilot study are to: (1) adapt commercial robot and peripheral hardware to
create accessible interactions for AD/ADRD patients; (2) design and develop the robot interaction software to
provide rich, supportive interaction; and (3) assess the feasibility, usability, and acceptability of SARA with
AD/ADRD older adults and their caregivers. SARA employs user-community-driven design processes and
evaluations to address key challenges surrounding how to best apply commercial robots and engaging
interaction methodologies to improve AD/ADRD patient care. We will develop SARA through an iterative
development process that produces and evaluates three versions of the system during the Phase I effort.SARA is significant in three ways. SARA reduces loneliness by providing robotic social interactions. SARA
reduces social isolation by connecting the patient more closely with family, friends, and caregivers, both directly
and through social media. SARA provides social assistance in three ways: (1) through automated reminders and
question answering for everyday information that is easily and often forgotten by patients; (2) conveyance of
health regimens (e.g., What can I have for lunch? Should I still exercise today?); and (3) monitoring for
caregivers.SARA contains three central innovations. First, to create a user experience that is well tuned to the needs of
patients and caregivers, SARA is created with significant feedback from AD/ADRD patients and caregivers.
Second, to enable us to build on multiple robotic platforms that can meet this user experience, and to provide
future extensibility, SARA features a platform-agnostic software and hardware framework that can integrate with
a wide range of consumer social robots. Third, to create engaging, believable, and effective interactions with
AD/ADRD patients, SARA uses and extends an AI-based architecture, Hap, which is specifically designed to
create socially engaging interactive characters and robots that provide enjoyable and stimulating interactions.Project NarrativeAs many as 5.5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible, progressive brain disorder
that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, eventually impairing the ability to carry out even the simplest
tasks. Socially-Assistive Robots for Alzheimer’s (SARA) is a socially integrative and supportive robot to enhance
the connectedness, caregiving, well-being, and quality of life of older adults experiencing early to middle stage
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and AD-related dementias (ADRD). SARA helps alleviate the social isolation and
loneliness that AD/ADRD can have on individuals and their caregivers, improving quality of life, reducing the
monetary and social costs of care, and increasing the overall access and impact of care.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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