IBM Working on Bot to Help Elderly Age at Home

[Technology & Health ★★★]


(P1) Assisted living facilities and personal nurses aren’t exactly cheap. And as the Baby Boomer generation ages, finding an affordable means of helping people age in the comfort of their own home could be good not just for seniors, but for their wallets, too. So IBM is working on a prototype bot that could become what Consumerist describes as a “robotic roommate.” Built with sensors that can detect anything from a change in motion to sounds and scents, the so-called IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (MERA) could help track whether stove burners are on or the person has fallen. IBM has been developing the sensors alongside Rice University out of its Aging in Place lab in Austin, Texas, reports Business Insider.

(P2) While a senior technologist says there’s a lot of work ahead before the robot will be brought to market, including sorting out how to customize a bot’s knowledge of a person’s home environment, health issues, and more, “in the near-term, it would be more of the ambient sensors in the home starting to gather all of this data.” The prototype is already capable of reading facial expressions, capturing vital signs, and recognizing speech. Obvious markets include the US, which is home to more 100-year-olds (75,000) than any other country, and Japan, which is a third the size of the US but has 65,000 people over 100 and, as Business Insider reported earlier this fall, has broken its own record of most centenarians per capita for 46 years in a row.

WORDS: 250


VOCABULARY: prototype, so-called, sorting out, ambient, centenarians


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. In your opinion, do you think IBM will be successful with the MERA prototype? Why or why not?
  3. What are some jobs you can see robots replacing humans in the future? Why?
  4. Do you know any centenarians? If yes, describe one of them. If no, what do you think it would be like to be 100 plus years?


  1. According to the article what two things aren’t really affordable for the elderly?
  2. What acronym is mentioned for the bot?
  3. Who is IBM working with to develop this “robotic roommate”?
  4. The prototype bot is already programmed to ____________________, _________________________, and ________________________.
  5. What two countries are mentioned in the article as clear targets for marketing?


What do the following expressions or phrases mean?

  • but for their wallets, too (P1)
  • could help track (P1)
  • brought to market (P2)
  • capturing vital signs (P2)

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Image source: by  IBM Research/Flickr

One thought on “IBM Working on Bot to Help Elderly Age at Home

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