elderly care? Bring in the robot!

Robots have come a long way. For years they have been supporting human activity – enabling exploration in deep and dangerous environments, in space and in the oceans. A new generation of robots is being designed to live closer to home – taking care of aging adults and young children.

Image credit: Pixabay (free Pixabay license)

In the not-too-distant future, elderly people living alone could be reminded to take their medicine, read books to them, and offered a metaphorical, shoulder to cry on by a robot.

With Europe’s growing population increasing the pressure on health services – the share of older people in the total population is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades – robots may provide a useful solution.

Many robots are being developed as companions to help the elderly live longer independently.

“Robotics are essential for the health sector and for older adults because in 20 to 30 years there are not going to be enough people to care for an aging population,” said Estíbaliz Arzoz-Fernández, project manager and deputy coordinator of Joint . EU-Japan project called ACCRA.

meet astro and friend

BUDDY is a robot being designed to help with independent living. It is the height of a medium-sized dog, has an expressive face and can walk and speak.

Researchers at ACCRA brought together elderly people and their caregivers to help design this and another robot.

Arzoz-Fernandez said, ‘The elders really felt that they had a presence and they didn’t feel alone. ‘We think this robot will improve their well-being.’

BUDDY can provide appointment reminders, read e-books aloud, provide cognitive stimulation like math puzzles, set up video calls with friends and family, turn devices on and off, and security Can patrol the house for

These features could help people with early signs of dependence live independently longer, said Arzoz-Fernandez, who is also lead project manager at Trilog, a Paris-based company that helps companies and public-sector institutions develop new innovations. Provides advice on innovations.

Participants said the two most important aspects of BUDDY were its emotional and cognitive interactions. This is what the developers will focus on improving, the famous Arzoz-Fernandez.

For example, people liked that BUDDY expressed pleasure when they stroked the robot’s ‘head’, and were jealous if they stared it into the ‘eye’ for a long time.

Another robot that the ACCRA project was working on was Astro. It is a tall, mobile robot designed to help people recover from operations and improve their mobility. People can lean on it to walk, and it can guide them through exercises prescribed by health professionals.

Carers and elderly participants in the project said the robot needed to move more smoothly and allow people to answer its questions verbally.

Arzoz-Fernandez said this kind of co-creation is ‘essential’ to develop a robot shaped by the needs and expectations of users. Design engineers may think they know what end users want, but ‘it doesn’t often’, she said.

The researchers found that managing the expectations of potential users is also important for the robot to be successful. “Elderly users are looking forward to the activities and interactions that humans take for granted – and the technology is not at this stage yet,” Arzoz-Fernandez said.

He explained that developing robots that can learn about humans and interact with real awareness of their interests would take a long time and could be very costly.

Check Out Black Pepper and Cozmo

It takes a lot of time and money to make social robots look and act as closely as possible – but research shows they need to have these costly characteristics to be attractive to humans, said Emily Cross, professor of social robotics at the University of Glasgow. do not require.

“There’s this intense arms race to make robots more human, or social, or super attractive,” she says.

Pro. Krauss leads a project called Social Robots that compares people’s reactions to different robots using brain imaging, and monitors their heart rate, pupil dilation, and skin reactions. These measurements are proving to be more accurate and more useful than people’s answers to survey questions.

‘Really understanding the human side of human-robot interaction … will allow us to accelerate the progress we make in terms of (developing) truly effective robots.’

In one study, researchers compared people’s reactions to a human-looking robot called Paper and a palm-sized children’s toy robot called Cozmo.

Pepper can talk and walk. Cozmo cannot speak but has expressive eyes and makes sounds to express feelings.

The research team found that Cozmo engaged brain regions and cognitive processes in a way that was ‘much more richly involved’ than when people interacted with pepper.

Pro. ‘The amount of money and R&D that has gone into this human-like robot is orders of magnitude bigger than this little forklift … children’s toy robot,’ Kraus said.

‘But Cozmo can have a huge impact on social cognition in children and adults,’ she said. ‘It’s surprising in some ways, and not really on the radar.’

The Social Robots Project made another surprising discovery: How someone is introduced to a robot for the first time has just as much impact as what a robot looks like and what it can do.

If someone is told that a robot is slow enough, or that people need to speak softly, it manages their expectations and they can adapt their behavior to get the most out of the experience – eg. For by speaking more slowly.

It is important to understand these human-robot dynamics. Pro. ‘The future of humanity’s prosperity, comfort, ease and enjoyment of life are at stake,’ says Cross.

And countries with aging populations need effective and affordable ‘social robots’ on the market as soon as possible, the researchers say.

The good news is that within the next decade — perhaps less — robots that expand older people’s ability to live independently may be available for purchase, Arzoz-Fernandez said.

“It will be good for the elderly, their caregivers and the health system,” she said.

Written by Alex Whiting

This article was originally published in the journal Horizon, EU Research and Innovation.

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