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Zephyr: the intelligent, voice-activated overbed table

© La Maison attentive

La Maison Attentive, an interior design firm that works with the Inria Lille centre and NooliTIC, has produced a proof of concept for Zephyr, an intelligent, voice-activated overbed table. Created in less than a month, this tool is designed to offer greater independence to persons with reduced mobility.

The intelligent Zephyr helps people with limited mobility by giving them more self-sufficiency in their daily lives. Equipped with wheels, it goes into action with a simple voice command. One has only to say “Come, Zephyr” for it to approach and make its numerous functions available.

© La Maison attentive

An intelligent device

At the origin of the project, La Maison Attentive is an interior design agency dedicated to healthcare. Focusing on persons in fragile health in facilities (EHPAD*, functional rehabilitation centres, hospitals, etc.), the company works out technological solutions “co-designed with users”. Brigitte Maes, director of La Maison Attentive, designed the intelligent device. Zephyr has diverse functionalities (magazine pocket, cup-holder, pencil box, angle-adjustable table, first-aid kit, waste basket, etc.). Several hundred units are currently being marketed.

To improve her project, Maes turned to Sylvain Deceuninck, founder of NooliTIC, to equip Zephyr with artificial intelligence so that it can navigate on its own. “We design connected objects ,” he explains. “Our projects are often related to industry, but we now see that there are many opportunities in the health sector. ” The company, located in Lille, has expertise in sending data over wireless networks, such as Bluetooth. For the first time, they plan to create a connected object that responds to voice commands.

An InriaTech platform-based project

The main functionality of the product is that it can be made to move with a voice command. For this, it must be equipped with a motor and special software for it to recognise its environment and avoid obstacles to reach the right location without difficulty. Specialised research at Inria Lille in this field has been crucial for the success of Zephyr.

Santiago Bragagnolo, engineer with InriaTech – Inria’s technology transfer programme – has taken charge of the navigation aspect of Zephyr using research from Inria's Non-A team (part of Centrale Lille, CNRS and Université de Lille1**), which specialises in trajectory issues. “They create independent robots that map their environment in order to navigate it, ” explains Sylvain Karpf, Technology Transfer and Partnerships Officer at Inria's Lille centre. “We have adapted space and environment recognition techniques to a prototype table.The following step will be to adjust our technology to the final product ,” adds Margot Corréard, Technology Transfer and Partnerships Officer with Inria. Zephyr will then be able to navigate entirely on its own.

We have our proof of concept ,” explains Sylvain Deceuninck. “It was created in only one month, thanks to the InriaTech platform, without which nothing would have been possible.”  The next step will be to adapt the motorisation to the finished product. The project team is also examining how the intelligent component will be connected to Zephyr: will each device be equipped with a computer? For example, will they all be connected to a central system under facility-wide control? Questions that they will be able to answer after the funding necessary for project development has been obtained. Zephyr is also a candidate for funding from La Bourse Charles Foix, which for 13 years has been acknowledging innovative projects that improve the quality of life and self-sufficiency of senior citizens and/or their aides. “After 25 years of working on special amenities at health facilities, I feel confident that Zephyr is part of the change in practices for aiding people in fragile health in facilities and at home ,” concludes Brigitte Maes.

© La Maison attentive

InriaTech technology transfer platform

Inria / Photo H. Raguet

Launched in April 2015, the InriaTech platform is dedicated to technology transfer and R&D development in the Lille area. It is managed by 8 engineers and 3 partnership managers. Based at the EuraTechnologies centre in Lille, it is intended to foster collaboration and technology transfer among Inria research teams and innovative companies, as well as to encourage and facilitate the creation of startups resulting from such R&D activity.

* EHPAD:Établissement d’débergement pour personnes âgées (elderly housing centre)

** Joint research unit UMR 9189 (CNRS-Centrale Lille-Université Lille1, CRIStAL)

Keywords: Non-A project-team InriaTech