Ashley Lytle, Stevens Institute of Technology – In-Shoe Sensors and Robot Companions

Can a robot help seniors stay upright when friends are staying distant because of COVID-19?

Ashley Lytle, assistant professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology, looks into this question.

Research topics:  Stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, intergroup relations, STEM engagement and retention, health, gender, sexual orientation, age, race/ethnicity, belief systems.

In-Shoe Sensors and Robot Companions


The coronavirus pandemic has had a major effect on everyone of all ages, but it clearly has had a disproportionate effect on the health of seniors. In the blink of an eye, efforts to contain the virus halted daily routines, social interactions and physical activity, which is particularly critical for the elderly in maintaining their balance and decreasing the chance of a dangerous fall.   

To help seniors stay active and independent, I – along with my fellow researchers Yi Guo and Ashley Lytle from Stevens Institute of Technology and Ashwini Rau from Columbia University Medical Center – have developed a mobile robot companion with wearable in-shoe sensors to help seniors maintain the balance and motion they need to stay healthy. 

Using some of the newest mechanical and robotic technologies, our mobile robots are designed to lead walking sessions and monitor a user’s gait using the in-shoe sensors. Once a balance issue is identified, the system can adjust the exercise speed and pace to ensure the user maintains their balance. The robot companion will also offer teleconferencing tools to help seniors connect socially with family and friends, which is crucial for preventing loneliness and isolation.

The system has proven to successfully evaluate whether the person following the robot is walking normally or is at risk of falling and, despite the pandemic, we’re continuing to work on further enhancements.

This is the first time we are combining wearable sensing technology with mobile robotics and it is a powerful example of how we are making a difference in people’s lives.

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