Scientists in York have developed a two-armed robot to help people receiving care to get dressed.

University of York experts said the invention could give care workers more time to look after the health and mental well-being of individuals they are looking after.

Robotics researcher Dr Jihong Zhu, from the university’s institute for safe autonomy, has created the ‘two-armed assistive dressing scheme’, which has been inspired by the ‘specific actions’ of care workers.

The university said until now, assistive dressing robots, designed to help an elderly person or a person with a disability get dressed, have been created in the laboratory as a one-armed machine, but research has shown that this can be uncomfortable or impractical for the person in care.


Dr Zhu said: “We know that practical tasks, such as getting dressed, can be done by a robot, freeing up a care-worker to concentrate more on providing companionship and observing the general well-being of the individual in their care.

“It has been tested in the laboratory, but for this to work outside of the lab we really needed to understand how care-workers did this task in real-time.

“We adopted a method called learning from demonstration, which means that you don’t need an expert to programme a robot, a human just needs to demonstrate the motion that is required of the robot and the robot learns that action.

“It was clear that for care workers two arms were needed to properly attend to the needs of individuals with different abilities.”

A university spokesperson said the scientist gathered important information about how care workers moved during a dressing exercise, allowed a robot to observe and learn from human movements and then, through artificial intelligence, generated a model that mimics how human helpers do their task.

The spokesperson said the team built algorithms that made the robotic arm flexible enough to perform pulling and lifting actions, but also be guided by the touch of a human hand.

Dr Zhu said: “Human modelling can really help with efficient and safe human and robot interactions, but it is not only important to ensure it performs the task, but that it can be halted or changed mid-action should an individual desire it.

“Trust is a significant part of this process, and the next step in this research is testing the robot's safety limitations and whether it will be accepted by those who need it most.”