Thursday, 30 March 2017

Is Robotics a Solution to The Growing Needs of the Elderly?


Robots – Nurses/Caretakers for Elderly

At the reception of Institute of Media Innovation, at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, you will find a smiling brunette receptionist known as Nadine.One would not find anything unusual with regards to her appearance but on closer scrutiny you will get to know that she is a robot. Nadine is said to be an intellectual robot with the potential of autonomous behaviour and for a machine, her appearance and behaviour tends to be amazingly natural.

 She has the tendency of recognizing people together with their emotions and utilises her knowledge database, her thought in order to communicate. They have still been fine-tuning her receptionist skills, at IMI and shortly Nadine could be the nurse for your grandma. Study in the use of robots as nurses or caretakers have been mounting and it is not difficult to know the reason. Global population is getting old which is being a strain on the systems of healthcare.

 Though most of the elders in the age of 80 may need a companion to chat with or someone to take care of them in case they tend to stumble and fall, more and more of the elderly tend to suffer from serious disorder namely dementia.

Quality Care – Needs of Elderly

Several experts are of the opinion that robots could be the solution in providing the much needed quality care in addressing the needs of the elderly. Nadine is being designed by a team which is headed by Prof Nadia Thalmann who have been working on virtual human research for several years. Nadine is said to exist for three years.

According to Prof Thalmann, she seems to have human like potential in recognizing people, emotion while simultaneously remembering them. She will automatically adjust to the person as well as situations she may tend to deal with thus making her perfectly suitable in looking after the aged, according to Prof Thalmann.

Moreover, the robot is said to monitor the wel lbeing of the patient and in case of an emergency can call for help. Besides this, she can also chat, read stories or even play games. Prof Thalmann commented that the humanoid is never tired or bored and it will just do what it is devoted for.

IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant

However, Nadine is not perfect and tends to have trouble understanding accents. Her hand co-ordination is not the best. Nonetheless, Prof Thalmann states that robots could be caring the aged within 10 years. IBM, the US technology giant is said to be occupied with robo-nurse research in association with Rice University, in Houston, Texas who have developed the IBM Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant – Mera.

 It is said that Mera can monitor the heart and breathing of a patient by analysing video of their face. Moreover it can also view if the patient had fallen and convey the information to caretakers. But not all would be prepared for a robot caretaker, admits Susann Keohane, global research leader of IBM, for the strategic initiative on aging.

 This opinion has been supported by research by Gartner which had found `resistance’ to the usage of humanoid robots in the care of the elderly. Kanae Maita, principal analyst in personal technologies innovation at Gartner Research had commented that people did not seem to be comfortable with the idea of their parents being cared by the robots, in spite of evidencethat it provides value for money.