ASK, DON’T TELL
The urge to expand a project’s scope can be especially hard to fight on senior
living projects. To resist the temptation to produce a bigger (and not necessarily
better) result for elderly end users, project managers must stay laser focused on
their initiatives’ objectives, says Mr. Smith.
“We serve such a unique and vulnerable population. It is important to remain
mission-centric,” he says. “There’s so much to address, and the tendency is to
want to improve every aspect of the customer experience.”
Mr. Smith advocates a human-centered design approach to problem solving
to help teams stay focused on the goal at hand. He encourages project managers
to bring senior living residents into their scope creation meetings—and circle
back at critical touch points throughout the project—to make sure they’re deliv-
ering what the residents really need.
“You’ve got to engage with the people you’re designing programs for,” Mr.
“Investors [in China]
are visiting places
like the U.S., Europe,
Australia and Japan
for insights on how
to develop the best
—Tony Wang, Watermark Senior Living,
Hong Kong, China
Seniors aren’t known for being early adopters of
technology. But some of the world’s most innovative
robotics projects are keeping the elderly top of mind.
In Japan, which has one of the world’s highest
proportions of seniors, manufacturers are running
projects to develop personal-assist robots that make
daily tasks easier for seniors with limited mobility
and their caregivers. For example, Toyota is testing
its Human Support Robot (HSR), a roughly 4-foot
( 1.2-meter) assistant that can pick up and transport
objects around a room.
The HSR can be controlled remotely,
making it easy for families to care for their
elderly loved ones from wherever they are.
Research projects focused on developing
software and streamlining the HSR’s user
experience started in April 2016 and are
slated to last approximately two years.
In France, Japanese company SoftBank
recently introduced Pepper, a companion
robot capable of responding to a user’s emo-
tional state through its facial expressions and
body movements. Although Pepper wasn’t developed
specifically with seniors in mind, the robot can offer
Meet the New Caregiver
Next-gen robots aim to make life easier for the elderly.
companionship to isolated elderly people,
says Jules Garbé, program manager,
Aldebaran-SoftBank Group, Paris, France.
“Helping seniors is not only about
physical assistance. We have to tend to
their emotional well-being too,” he says.
But to create a real emotional bond,
the project team had to build a robot
that would understand and engage with
the user’s coded body language. By
working closely with animators and seniors in retirement homes, the team was
able to research different user responses and improve
the quality of the robot’s interactions.
“The quick feedback loop between our software
team, our animators and the reaction of the public
has allowed us to develop a very unique and emo-
tional way for the robot to express itself.”
Mr. Garbé says that Pepper’s photo/message
sharing capabilities—tested through a series of
user-experience programs—are also a perfect fit for
seniors who are unable to maintain close physical
ties to their families. “It helps to keep the connection
going,” he says.
is not only
have to tend to
—Jules Garbé, Aldebaran-SoftBank Group, Paris, France