Report for YR-RISE Workshop in AAL Forum

Wang Xuan

Date: 15-17 September, 2010

Conference: AAL Forum- Ambient Assisted Living Forum

YR-RISE workshop-Young Researchers’ workshop: Research on Innovative solutions for elderly

Venue: Odense Congress Center, Odense, Denmark

Abstract: The Ambient Assisted Living Joint Program is a new joint research and development funding activity by 23 European Members and Associated States with the financial support of the European Community provided on the basis of article 185 of the EC treaty. The overall objective of the program is to enhance the quality of life of older people and strengthen the industrial base in Europe through the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). In the context of the “AAL Forum Odense 2010” the “Young Researchers and PhD workshop” involves students and young researchers from various backgrounds, presenting their research towards technical solutions for the elderly people. There are three tracks: 1.Ambient Intelligence and Health Care in Elderly; 2.Communication technologies and interfaces; 3. Serious Games, Robotics and Social Networks. All the four projects from our lab are grouped into the second track and I presented Confucius Chat project.

First started last year, the Ambient Assisted Living Forum is a relatively new event, which serves as an information and discussion platform for stakeholders, scientists and end users in Europe on the issue of aging problem in the Europe ( This year it was held in the city of Odense in the region of southern Denmark. The forum lasted for 3 days and thousands of people attended. There were altogether 8 tracks and the YR-RISE Workshop is track G “AAL in research” ( Other tracks had quite different focus, such as “Market, Economy, Innovation”, “Changing the model of innovation through user engagement” and “AAL in National & Regional politics”, since this is not mainly a research conference but rather an economic forum.

YR-RISE Workshop:

The main aim of the workshop is to get young researcher to communicate and interact with each other on the ambient assistive aging technology and encourage and foster collaborations among different universities and institutions. During the workshop, researches were presented in the form of posters to fellow researchers as well as to the whole AAL forum. There were 25 posters selected, and about 40 participants attended the workshop. As this is a European conference, all other participants came from European countries such as Austria, Finland, UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, etc. We four are the only researchers from outside Europe. Besides the different countries the participants came from, the background of the participants also varies a lot. The organizers are from Psychology Department of the University of Vienna, Austria, so there were quite a few psychologists there. And there were people from clinical science, engineering, computer science, game design, etc. This is a very good thing because AAL itself is a very interdisciplinary area and today many other research field requires people from different background to work together. Thus, this provides a very good platform to hear the voice from people with completely different insights and get a fresh perspective to your problem.

I presented the Confucius Chat project and received quite a lot interesting questions. Some people raised the question that it seems to be a bit arbitrary to select Confucius to solve the intergeneration communication problem, and the software we wrote seems to be a very good learning tool for students to learn about Confucius. Other students suggested the interface we have right now is not very suitable to be used by the elderly, because the font is too small to read and the elderly may have trouble typing the questions. One professor from university of Vienna is very interested in the psychological effect of talking to a chat agent rather than talking to a real person. And the chair of the workshop suggested using a video chat interface rather than a typing interface, because the former is more user-friendly to elderly people.

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It seems that people in the western world are interested in our Asian perspective and they would like to know more about natural language processing technology as well. I was lucky to get selected as the winner from the Communication Technologies and interfaces track, 3rd place winner of the YR-RISE workshop and was invited to give a presentation about Confucius Chat to the whole AAL forum on the third day of the workshop. It was my first time to give public presentations at an international level. Though there were not much people attending the 9am session, it was still a very rewarding experience for me. Also, it helps to get more people know about our work and our lab, and enables us to do more impactful research.

One researcher from Spain even brought his robot to do a demo during the workshop. The robot looks like a 3-leg spider, and it is intended to substitute the walking dog for blind and deaf people. Everyone enjoyed the demo a lot. However, some criticized that it may be more convenient to implement the obstacle detection mechanism in the walking cane instead.

Here are some more posters presented:

Other AAL Forum Activities:

There were many other activities going on in parallel with the young researcher workshop. We had the chance to have a look at the exhibitions as well as attending some talks after the poster session is finished.

In the AAL Forum, they have a special exhibition section called Innovation World – Experience Future Senior Living. People from various institutions and companies showed their latest products and get the end user to experience them. There was one interesting demo which very much resembles Age Invader. It is also a floor based game platform composed of eight square pads, and players compete by stepping onto the opposite side’s squares. It is intended to be used by the apoplexy patients for rehabilitation purpose. I think maybe age invader can also be used for rehabilitation and there might be a potential market for it.

There were many robots shown as well, such as the famous seal robot Paro, Myspoon, which helps handicapped people to eat, and Giraff, a robot for care givers to virtually enter a room and conduct a visit just as if they were physically there.

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We attended the talk given by the inventor of Paro. He explained the design considerations of making Paro and showed several videos of people interact with Paro. It is amazing that people can really get attached to it and open up to it. Paro is being used in the hospitals and nursing homes in Europe and people are studying its effects on enriching the care work to people with dementia and intellectual disability. Interestingly, people in the US and Japan consider Paro more as a pet rather than for clinical use.

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On the last day, we attended the Keynote speech given by the famous inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil (, who has been described as “the restless genius” by the Wall Street Journal and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes. His topic is Independent Living in the age of Accelerating technology. He pointed out the exponential growth of technology and a very interesting point he made is that usually it takes years for invention and innovation to get started, you may work for years and seems to have no progress, but later it will grow exponentially and rapidly become a huge impact to the world, and this is the Law of Accelerating Returns. He predicts that Moore’s law will continue to work in the future. When a current technology reaches its limit, a new technology will come out and continues the growth predicted by Moore’s law.

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