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Radar technology

Radar sensors in the table top

Tischplatte mit Radarsensorik und Wireless Power.
The gesture control integrated in the tabletop not only helps in elderly care, but can also be used for virtual worlds at trade fairs or in medical technology.
© Volker Mai/Fraunhofer IZM

A table with radar sensors is designed to connect commercially available objects with communication technology. It is to be used in occupational therapy for people with dementia as well as for individual care and is being developed as part of the "Daysi" research project.

The goal of the Daysi research project (development of an interactive care and everyday assistance system based on a contactless power and 60 GHz interface) is to allow pieces of furniture to communicate with people suffering from dementia. They are thus intended to support the affected persons and their care in everyday life.

The basis is a simple table equipped with radar and communication technology. For example, a voice control system can be built into an artificial flower, or a small beamer can be built into a picture frame. A database integrated in the table can provide the nursing staff with pictures, songs and other information for an individual approach.

Such a table can already be used during the admission interview: Frequently recurring behavior patterns, such as addressing the children, are processed by voice recognition and answered with an adapted response. Sensitive information can be locked, so that only authorized care personnel can access it via a security query.

Using objects for gesture-based communication

The Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM is developing the entire surface in the Daysi research project. This includes the hardware for the radar sensor, the radio communication and the contactless charging of the batteries (wireless charging) to power the individual components. By integrating these elements, the table becomes an interactive interface on which commercially available objects become gesture-controlled means of communication.

The individual components are the points of contact to a mini-computer integrated into the tabletop. Additional external components of the system, such as projectors, cameras, as well as a voice recognition system, can be connected via the table's wireless interfaces and installed in everyday objects, such as vases or picture frames, as needed. All these objects are to be connected by means of an automatic playback technology so that they connect directly to the computer when used.

In addition to various radio communication interfaces and a charging device, gesture recognition is also being integrated in collaboration with software partner Creonic. Other partners in the Daysi project are Contag AG for building the electronics, the Böhm Group for installing the electronics in the table, and Evangelische Altenhilfe Duisburg GmbH and Charité́ Universitätsmedizin Berlin for testing and using the table in a real application environment.

At about the halfway point of the project, the project partners agree: "The Daysi interface will revolutionize the field of patient care. Such systems can significantly simplify care. Other fields of application are also conceivable, such as the gaming industry," says project manager Christian Tschoban from Fraunhofer IZM, whose team came up with the idea for the technology in the table.

Prototype – also for games

The consortium is currently working on the circuitry for a prototype of the interface. The demonstrator will then be installed in the table by the project partners and the feasibility, acceptance and possible communication errors will be tested by Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Evangelische Altenhilfe Duisburg in various application scenarios. For example, a projector is used to simulate family members or friends who can communicate and interact with the patient via the table. Gesture recognition is used to assess the calming effect and, if this is not successful, the nursing service is informed.

To ensure that the table can also assist with activating animation, game options have been integrated that can be controlled via the coils embedded in the table, the beamer and gesture recognition.

Care experts are also investigating the extent to which it helps people suffering from dementia to suddenly experience their previously passive environment interactively. Meanwhile, Fraunhofer researchers are testing the functions of the integrated radar technology and the miniaturized system. Until now, such systems have only existed in much larger form.

The Daysi research project, with a volume of 2.11 million euros, is 74 percent funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The project name Daysi is an artificial word made up of »day« – the abbreviation for daily – and »si« – the abbreviation for simple. Until then, all project partners will be working on the interactive, everyday assistance system for people suffering from dementia, which is to be used in care facilities and the home environment by the end of the project.

Basis for multi-touch tables for VR applications

In addition to geriatric care, the Fraunhofer researchers, together with the Technical University of Berlin, are also aiming to collaborate with Garamantis. Unlike the company's multi-touch tables, which so far still function capacitively like standard touchscreens, the interactive worlds are to be operated by gesture control in the future. First project applications of the development of a 3D gesture control for multi-touch environments by means of novel multi-radar sensors for virtual reality environments have been submitted. These provide a basis for further fields of application such as autonomous driving or as a facilitator for elderly and impaired persons, such as the visually impaired.

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Fraunhofer IZM (Institut für Zuverlässigkeit und Mikrointegration)