MIT and Segway's robo-hackathon focuses on eldercare

75 teams are competing to make the Loomo robot work for seniors.

Robots have become smarter and more useful over the last year alone, and Segway Robotics is turning to developers for ideas on more meaningful applications for its Loomo bot. For three days starting February 10th, the company is co-hosting the MIT Hacking Medicine Robotics hackathon in Singapore to create eldercare-based uses for Loomo. 75 teams, each consisting of three developers, a healthcare professional and a business manager, will work on ways to use Loomo to address elderly and medical care challenges in Singapore, where the population is rapidly aging. The winning teams' creations will be tested in Singapore, and successful applications will be rolled out globally.

In addition to coming up with helpful applications for Loomo, the event's organizers are also hoping to get participant feedback on how to improve the robot. Segway unveiled the latest developer version of Loomo at CES this year, and announced an array of partners that includes MIT, BMW and Intel. While MIT is focusing on healthcare applications for Loomo, BMW and Intel are exploring uses in autonomous driving and perceptual computing, respectively.

One in four Singaporeans is expected to require elder care by 2030, which puts a strain on the country's healthcare industry, increasing its need for qualified workers. Singapore is not alone in its situation either, as numerous other nations with aging populations face similar challenges.

The hackathon's winners will be announced on February 13th at the EmTech Asia conference, after which they'll see their projects funded and tested. Segway says more than 300 applicants signed up for the event, which is hopefully an indicator that people are brimming with ideas on how to ease problems in healthcare for elderly people.