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Maple Knoll tests UC smart house for seniors

Except for a small sign the  "Innovation Collaboratory House" looks like any other villa at Maple Knoll Village. But walk inside and it's anything but.

Telehealth robots are in the sitting room and a Microsoft X-Box "Kinect" demonstration is in the bedroom. "Flo-bot" can manage congestive heart failure and do stroke intervention. "Little-bot" can ask you questions.

Other innovations:

  • Fall detection system using Microsoft X-Box "Kinect"
  • Exoskeleton technology to help the elderly with sitting and standing
  • Senors to monitor the opening and closing of things like the refrigerator and pill boxes
Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
"Little-Bot" is designed for 2-way communication and asks the resident questions.

Debi Sampsel, DNP, chief officer of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, knows all about smart houses. Some years ago she created one at Wright State University. This one, at Maple Knoll Village in Springdale, is designed to showcase how seniors can stay in their homes longer.

The seniors who live at Maple Knoll get a sneak peak at the smart villa, according to the retirement community's Megan Gresham. “Every comment we heard was-when can we get started. We want the root visiting us. We’re so excited for this to be happening.”

There is a control room in the house, but the controller could be anywhere. It uses raspberry pi technology costing just $35 instead of the original controller which cost $5,000. UC graduate student Gaurav Patil worked on the rasberry pi controller. He explained privacy shouldn't be a concern.

“People don’t’ like to be watched. That’s where the Kinect comes in. It just uses an infrared camera. It doesn’t record your face or any kind of video. And then we have other motion sensors and those kind of sensors that don’t’ really record any kind of pictures or sound, they just detail the activity.”

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
UC students are using the Microsoft X-Box "Kinect" system to monitor falls, instead of the expensive motion detection cameras shown in this picture.

Legislation is needed to pay for this technology in homes

UC engineering professor Dan Humpert says now government and political leaders need to buy in. "We're doing the marketing piece, the educational piece. We're doing whatever it's going to take to sell this so that it can be adapted in the United States."

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.