Robots as healthcare assistants and companions
Healthbots is a joint research project being carried out by Bruce MacDonald and his team at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and the Electronic and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) in Korea. Together, the team wishes to create custom designed robotic technology that’s suitable for use with an older population. The robots have been evaluated over the past 4 years in a series of trials and they are now being poised for use on a larger scale as assistants in people’s homes, hospitals and retirement communities.
These robots are lending a helping hand to caregivers by assisting them with repetitive tasks like vital signs monitoring, dispensing of medications and fall detection. Additionally, users can use these robots to connect them to friends and family who may live far away. This feature has already received positive a lot feedback: people like internet technology delivered via the robot, because they find it’s easier to use than a computer.
Ngaire Kerse, Professor of General Practice and Primary Health Care of Auckland University is providing advice about the medical and health aspects within the project. She brings up an interesting point this blog likes to consider: ¨I am interested in the idea that a robot could be a sort of companion. Loneliness is one of the most difficult aspects of life for some older people who live alone, and innovative ways to alleviate this are needed.¨ Kerse further explains that ¨The role of technology in aiding older people and improving their lot is intriguing because older people are fascinated by technology and quite accepting, but at the same time find technology difficult. If robotic devices could be produced to a high enough standard, some of the barriers could be overcome¨.
If you’re interested in learning about cutting-edge research that aims to create machines that are gentle and sophisticated enough to be helpful companions, you may want to check out the European initiative: Robot Companions for Citizens.
At Smart Homes, we are currently working on user-system interaction design and evaluation in two companion robotics projects (CompanionAble and Mobiserv).
We have just released two short new videos of our robots on YouTube, so if you like, have a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKVkQYgXaZs and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqJxhp3-tVU
Thanks for sharing!