Despite its recognised benefits, most older adults do not engage in a regular physical activity. The ACANTO project proposes a friendly robot walker (the FriWalk) that will abate a some of the most important barriers to this healthy behaviour.

The FriWalk revisits the notion of robotic walking assistants and evolves it towards an activity vehicle. The execution of a programme of physical training is embedded within familiar and compelling every-day activities. The FriWalk operates as a personal trainer triggering the user actions and monitoring their impact on the physical and mental well-being. It offers cognitive and emotional support for navigation pinpointing risk situations in the environment and understanding the social context. It supports coordinated motion with other FriWalks for group activities.

The FriWalk combines low cost and advanced features, thanks to its reliance on a cloud of services that increase its computing power and interconnect it to other assisted living devices. Very innovative is its ability to collect observations on the user preferred behaviours, which are consolidated in a user profile and used for recommendation of future activities. In this way, the FriWalk operates as a gateway toward a CyberPhysical Social Network (CPSN), which is an important contribution of the project. The CPSN is at the basis of a recommendation system in which users’ profiles are created, combined into “circles” and matched with the opportunity offered by the environment to generate recommendations for activities to be executed with the FriWalk support. The permanent connection between users and CPSN is secured by the FriPad, a tablet with a specifically designed user interface. The CPSN creates a community of users, relatives and therapists, who can enter prescriptions on the user and receive information on her/his state.

Users are involved in a large number in all the phases of the system development and an extensive validation is carried out at the end.

Project details

February 2015 – July 2018
Horizon 2020 (643644)
Funded value:
Project website
  • Sandy Wolfson, Northumbria University
  • Lynn McInnes, Northumbria University

NORTH Lab investigators

Lynne Coventry

Lynne Coventry is the Director of PaCT Lab (Psychology and Communication Technology) at the University of Northumbria. Lynne is best known for her work on usable security, particularly biometrics.

Her research interests are varied and she is currently involved in research exploring the role of communication technology in the lives of older adults to facilitate mobility and inclusion, the role of trust in student’s use of online information, the usability of medical products and the design of usable security. She is an applied researcher who enjoys working in multidisciplinary teams to solve real problems. She is keen to explore new ways of integrating psychology into design and technology development processes.

She has a multidisciplinary background with a BSC in Psychology and Computing Science, an MSc in Software Engineering and a PhD in Human Computer Interaction. While her early career was spent as a research fellow and lecturer at Stirling University, Heriot Watt and Dundee university, the majority of her career has been as a researcher within Industry (both computing and medical products) working to incorporate understanding of people, their use and acceptance of technology into the requirements and design process.

Lynne is a founding member of the Scottish Usability Professional Association and previous vice president. Lynne is a founding member of STEPS, and current Editor of Interfaces (A British Computer Society Magazine) and a reviewer for a number of international conferences and journals.

View Profile Send Email

Pam Briggs

I hold a Chair in Applied Psychology at Northumbria University and am a Visiting Professor at Newcastle University. My work primarily addresses issues of identity, trust and security in new social media, seeking answers to three main questions: Why and when do we feel secure in disclosing sensitive identity information about ourselves? What makes us trust an electronic message? How and when do we seek to protect our privacy?

In the last five years, I’ve secured over £2m in research funding, have published over forty articles on human perceptions of trust, privacy and security in computer-mediated communication and have developed, with colleagues, a new model of health advice-seeking online. I’m one of the founder members of the UK's Research Institute in the Science of Cybersecurity, funded by GCHQ in association with RCUK's Global Uncertainty Programme and my most recent research awards address both usable and inclusive privacy and security.

My latest projects (see projects page) concern cybersecurity across the lifespan (cSALSA), the human side of cyber and cloud crime (CRITICAL) and attitudes and decision-making behaviours around cyberinsurance (CYBECO). I’m also a co-investigator on the Digital Economy Research Centre (DERC) where I’ve been exploring ways to democratise context-relevant data collection and analysis and explore the design of digital platforms for social action.

View Profile Send Email

Andrew McNeill

Andrew McNeill is a Research Fellow working on the ACANTO Project at PaCT Lab in Northumbria University. He gained his PhD through studying the discursive enactment of victimhood in post-conflict Northern Ireland. Following this he worked on the INfluENCE project, which explored the dissemination of H1N1-related information during the 2009-10 UK pandemic. Currently he works on the ACANTO project, which is developing a social network system for older adults with a view to improving their social, psychological and physical wellbeing.

View Profile Send Email

Other Projects