Leuchie guests join research discussion with Robotarium project

Prior to regular guest Bob’s last holiday in August, Elizabeth McDowell, Leuchie’s Head of Enabling Technology, asked if he would be interested in participating in a study about his experiences with urinary tract infections, UTIs. Bob, along with two other guests, engaged in a discussion about their experiences with researchers from the National Robotarium at the School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences Heriot -Watt University.

Before his latest visit this month Elizabeth phoned ahead to speak to Bob to tell him that the researchers were working on the next stage of the project. He was invited along with seven others from the Edinburgh area to a workshop to formulate the characteristics needed for a robot to meet the needs of someone prone to UTIs. The researchers are currently reviewing Bob’s and the other participants designs to decide which robot ‘embodiment’ (type) of robot could best be used in the FEATHER project.

The workshop was held in a futuristic building, The National Robotarium at Heriot Watt Univeristy, opened at the end of 2022 and is full of glass enclosed lecture theatres and robotic workshops.

Participants began by filling out questionnaires to capture their pre-conceptions about the robots and how they made them feel. At this stage, the robots were stationed around the room, but all powered off. We then headed downstairs to the fully working flat where we had a tour and then got a brief but exciting demonstration of the robots. Following the demo, we filled out the initial questionnaire again to see if our bias and feelings toward the robots changed after seeing them in action! Finally, we were tasked to choose 3 indicators of a UTI, choose a robot, and then design how we would interact with it and how it would pick up the symptoms.

Bob's notes from the research discussion

Bob was amazed to hear how varied UTI symptoms can be, which makes this research project design tricky. “I, having had only 1 UTI, was in the minority as most of the other participants were often in hospital. Many years ago my carers arrived in the morning to find me talking total rubbish. They called my GP who sent me straight to St John’s Hospital. I was admitted and pumped full of antibiotics. Of course this is all anecdotal because I had not a clue what was happening to me. I was told by nurses later that they had to come into my room because they heard cries of “No, no, no!” I later realised that I’d had a nightmare in which my carers had programmed the washing machine at 60 Celsius!!”

He goes on to say ‘It was great fun in the workshop to suggest a sniffer dog to detect the change in the odour and colour of urine, both indicative of a UTI. I also suggested the dog should ask its handler whether they felt okay. If the answer wasn’t comprehensible, it would indicate delirium, another UTI indicator.”

Bob wasn’t sure whether this ambition will be too difficult to achieve in the immediate future but certainly something for the researchers to aim for.

It was an exciting day out, and well planned by the researchers leading it. We look forward to hearing more and being involved at the next stages.