Tech Launches New AI Institute Devoted to Supporting Aging Adults

Researchers in the AI-CARING institute are primarily looking to imbed new technologies in homes.

Researchers in the AI-CARING institute are primarily looking to imbed new technologies in homes.

Georgia Tech and four partner universities launched their Collaborative Assistance and Responsive Interaction for Networked Groups (AI-CARING) institute with a nationwide, virtual kickoff event on October 20, 2021. This newly formed National Science Foundation (NSF) artificial intelligence (AI) research institute seeks to create a vibrant discipline focused on personalized, collaborative AI systems that will improve the quality of care for the aging. These AI systems will learn individual models of human behavior and how they change over time and use that knowledge to better collaborate and communicate in caregiving environments.

By 2050, nearly 20 percent of the US population will be 65 or older in age. And over 77 percent of adults ages 65-79 will have one or more chronic health conditions. Annually, more than $250 billion is spent on caregiving for Alzheimer’s and dementia alone. The institute is one of two new NSF AI institutes awarded to Georgia Tech with $40 million in funding to accelerate AI innovation.

The nationwide kickoff event was led by Sonia Chernova, associate professor of interactive computing at Georgia Tech, and the lead principal investigator (PI) for the AI-CARING institute. The grant’s co-PI Elizabeth Mynatt, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology (IPaT), helped describe many of the new AI institute’s research goals and approaches. They were joined with presentations by research leaders from Carnegie Mellon University, Oregon State University, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Researchers in the AI-CARING institute are primarily looking to imbed new technologies in homes by designing, developing, and deploying interactive, intelligent systems over extended periods of time. The research universities partnering with this new NSF AI-CARING institute led by Georgia Tech include Carnegie Mellon University, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Oregon State University, and Oregon Health and Sciences University.

In addition to the university partnerships, AI-CARING is partnering with three established research groups. The first one is the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technologies to Support Aging-in-Place for People with Long-Term Disabilities (RERC TechSAge), a collaborative center based at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. TechSAge features multidisciplinary research, development, and training projects that are dedicated to understanding the needs of, and developing supportive technologies for, people aging with long-term disabilities.

The second partner group is the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Wireless Technologies (Wireless RERC). Their mission is to integrate established wireless technologies with emerging wirelessly connected devices and services for a transformative future where individuals with disabilities achieve independence, improved quality of life, and enhanced community participation.

The third group is the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation (RERC-APT) based at Carnegie Mellon University. They are researching and developing methods to empower consumers and service providers in the design and evaluation of accessible transportation equipment, information services, and physical environments.

Some examples of daily life activities that could benefit from advancing AI technologies include: improving health and wellness; taking medication; improving safety at home; improving socialization; easier communications (phone, video conferencing, email); improving transportation (car, cab, public transit, etc.); helping with cooking, house cleaning, laundry; easier shopping (i.e groceries); managing personal finances; rehabilitation (recovering from a fall or illness); and assisting in many other life activity areas.

Assistance with aging individuals experiencing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia is also a significant part of the planned AI research. The Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University's Brain Health Center recently launched an innovative research and therapy program for people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) known as the Cognitive Empowerment Program. That new program will help to support AI-CARING research focused on MCI.

AI-CARING institute researchers will be working into 2026 across a five-year time span. At this time, there are 18 nationwide AI Institutes funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a total investment of $360 million in funding as of 2021.

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Walter Rich