Can social robots be utilized in elder care? UBC research goals to search out out Q&As
Meet Kiwi and Mango, social robots from Japan. They might appear to be a cuddly cross between Teletubbies and WALL-E, however what lies beneath is superior AI expertise that allows them to be taught, converse, acknowledge faces and voices, transfer round and even supply hugs, emulating the heat of an actual pet.
Kiwi and Mango are on mortgage to UBC for a brand new research exploring interactions between social robots and older adults. Dr. Lillian Hung (she/her), lead researcher, Canada Analysis Chair in Senior Care and assistant professor of nursing, explains how the research was conceived and what it may imply for elder care.
What sparked your curiosity in finding out social robots?
Our analysis on the Innovation in Dementia & Ageing (IDEA) Lab focuses on analyzing how expertise and the atmosphere affect dementia care. In Japan, the place isolation and loneliness is a large drawback for older adults, Lovot robots – as their producer calls them – have gained recognition as companions. I needed to review how these robots work together with older adults and people with cognitive challenges in a Canadian context.
My earlier analysis involving Paro, a robotic seal, confirmed that companion robots could possibly be useful for individuals with dementia. Lovots, with their superior AI capabilities, may maintain much more promise, so I labored with their Japanese producer to convey them to Canada. Canada is now a part of an ongoing worldwide research, together with Hong Kong and Singapore, that’s analyzing these human-robot interactions.
How have individuals responded to Kiwi and Mango to date?
Our casual, preliminary visits to care properties, neighbourhood homes and comparable locations within the Vancouver area have been strongly optimistic. Individuals have been heat and receptive. In a single care residence, an initially reserved resident shocked us by reaching out and interesting with Kiwi. His happiness simply shone out.
Social robots are fascinating as a result of they’re not purely useful—they’re designed to answer individuals. By their very nature, they increase questions round what it means for human beings, and particularly older adults, to hunt companionship from machines in each day life. Not like Japan, the place robotic companions are extra commonplace, Canada doesn’t have a historical past of pet robots. But international tendencies point out rising loneliness ranges – even right here.
What occurs subsequent?
Beginning this month, we will probably be collaborating with native companion Amica Senior Existence to introduce Kiwi and Mango to their residents, observing and recording interactions between the residents, care employees and the robots. We may even conduct interviews with care residence employees and residents’ households.
Our purpose is to publish and share the outcomes to tell future instructions in elder care. As totally different areas begin to combine companion robots in everyday life, we must be interested by the implications of entrusting emotional and social help to machines. Does this redefine our humanity? Are robots and automation the reply to our elder care disaster? With this research, we hope to contribute some solutions.