It is a matter of fact that Europe is facing more and more crucial challenges regarding health and social care due to the demographic change and the current economic context. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has stressed this situation even further, thus highlighting the need for taking action. Active and Assisted Living (AAL) technologies come as a viable approach to help facing these challenges, thanks to the high potential they have in enabling remote care and support. Broadly speaking, AAL can be referred to as the use of innovative and advanced Information and Communication Technologies to create supportive, inclusive and empowering applications and environments that enable older, impaired or frail people to live independently and stay active longer in society. AAL capitalizes on the growing pervasiveness and effectiveness of sensing and computing facilities to supply the persons in need with smart assistance, by responding to their necessities of autonomy, independence, comfort, security and safety. The application scenarios addressed by AAL are complex, due to the inherent heterogeneity of the end-user population, their living arrangements, and their physical conditions or impairment. Despite aiming at diverse goals, AAL systems should share some common characteristics. They are designed to provide support in daily life in an invisible, unobtrusive and user-friendly manner. Moreover, they are conceived to be intelligent, to be able to learn and adapt to the requirements and requests of the assisted people, and to synchronise with their specific needs. Nevertheless, to ensure the uptake of AAL in society, potential users must be willing to use AAL applications and to integrate them in their daily environments and lives. In this respect, video- and audio-based AAL applications have several advantages, in terms of unobtrusiveness and information richness. Indeed, cameras and microphones are far less obtrusive with respect to the hindrance other wearable sensors may cause to one’s activities. In addition, a single camera placed in a room can record most of the activities performed in the room, thus replacing many other non-visual sensors. Currently, video-based applications are effective in recognising and monitoring the activities, the movements, and the overall conditions of the assisted individuals as well as to assess their vital parameters (e.g., heart rate, respiratory rate). Similarly, audio sensors have the potential to become one of the most important modalities for interaction with AAL systems, as they can have a large range of sensing, do not require physical presence at a particular location and are physically intangible. Moreover, relevant information about individuals’ activities and health status can derive from processing audio signals (e.g., speech recordings). Nevertheless, as the other side of the coin, cameras and microphones are often perceived as the most intrusive technologies from the viewpoint of the privacy of the monitored individuals. This is due to the richness of the information these technologies convey and the intimate setting where they may be deployed. Solutions able to ensure privacy preservation by context and by design, as well as to ensure high legal and ethical standards are in high demand. After the review of the current state of play and the discussion in GoodBrother, we may claim that the first solutions in this direction are starting to appear in the literature. A multidisciplinary debate among experts and stakeholders is paving the way towards AAL ensuring ergonomics, usability, acceptance and privacy preservation. The DIANA, PAAL, and VisuAAL projects are examples of this fresh approach. This report provides the reader with a review of the most recent advances in audio- and video-based monitoring technologies for AAL. It has been drafted as a collective effort of WG3 to supply an introduction to AAL, its evolution over time and its main functional and technological underpinnings. In this respect, the report contributes to the field with the outline of a new generation of ethical-aware AAL technologies and a proposal for a novel comprehensive taxonomy of AAL systems and applications. Moreover, the report allows non-technical readers to gather an overview of the main components of an AAL system and how these function and interact with the end-users. The report illustrates the state of the art of the most successful AAL applications and functions based on audio and video data, namely (i) lifelogging and self-monitoring, (ii) remote monitoring of vital signs, (iii) emotional state recognition, (iv) food intake monitoring, activity and behaviour recognition, (v) activity and personal assistance, (vi) gesture recognition, (vii) fall detection and prevention, (viii) mobility assessment and frailty recognition, and (ix) cognitive and motor rehabilitation. For these application scenarios, the report illustrates the state of play in terms of scientific advances, available products and research project. The open challenges are also highlighted. The report ends with an overview of the challenges, the hindrances and the opportunities posed by the uptake in real world settings of AAL technologies. In this respect, the report illustrates the current procedural and technological approaches to cope with acceptability, usability and trust in the AAL technology, by surveying strategies and approaches to co-design, to privacy preservation in video and audio data, to transparency and explainability in data processing, and to data transmission and communication. User acceptance and ethical considerations are also debated. Finally, the potentials coming from the silver economy are overviewed.


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