Shopping centres, airports, museums and hospitals are the kind of complex and confusing environments where elderly people on the verge of cognitive decline could have difficulties walking around without help. The walking frames they may currently use do not have the flexibility to help them navigate in often-crowded places.

This led researchers on the Devices for Assisted Living (DaLi) project to develop a robotic cognitive walker (c-Walker) that can be taken to, or picked up at, the place to be visited, gently guiding the person around the building safely. The device takes corrective actions when the user comes across the type of busy area, obstacle or incident they want to avoid.

“The c-Walker is aimed at providing physical and cognitive support to older adults. It can give them confidence in public environments”, explained Luigi Palopoli, professor at Italy’s Trento University who coordinated DaLi. “The device is full of hi-tech solutions, but the user is not necessarily aware of them. She or he comes into contact with a ‘standard’ walker, with a few additions such as the display or bracelets and does not need any kind of computer literacy. The robot simply guides them so that they have a nice, safe experience.”

Project details

November 2011 – October 2014
FP7-ICT (288917)
Project website
Funded value:

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.

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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.

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