Subscribe via RSS Feed

Social Robots Aiding Those with Dementia and Autism

July 31, 2014 0 Comments

ABC Melbourne featured a report on how social robots are being used to aid people with dementia and autism.

The initial trials took place through La Trobe University. Japanese-developed social robots were given were given to 23 individuals with mild cases of dementia.

Each robot was programmed to recognise the voice of their human companion and their purpose was to provide support, companionship and inspiration. The results were favourable, as reported by one of the trial’s participants, Edith Waters.

Edith Waters is 91 years of age, and lives alone. Being diagnosed with a mild case of dementia, Edith was given the opportunity to test a social robot.

“It was tremendous – I’m on my own and it’s just a bit of company – we can have a dance and sing with it,” Edith said. “I wanted a male one, called Bobby. It can do lots of things – only thing it can’t do is tuck me into bed.”

Val Lyons, Edith Waters’ carer, believes that the social robots may be an answer to helping elderly people cope with isolation.

“Socialisation is one of our biggest battles as carers – we can provide care, home and personal care, but the isolation is phenomenal with the elderly,” says Val. The social robots are about the size of a small vacuum cleaner, move like a toy robot, and feature voice patterns that are much clearer and favourable to the ear than Apple’s Siri. Val added, “I suppose it’s like having a pet without all the cleaning and feeding to do.”

Results of the study showed that participants felt more relaxed, were more productive and had an influence on improving their memories. But the benefits didn’t end there. The social robots provided respite to carers.

Rajiv Khosla, La Trobe’s professor who is leading the study, believes that social robots could possibly revolutionise the way the elderly are cared for, particularly those with dementia. One of the unique features of the social robots are that they are “emotionally intelligent”, claims Professor Khosla. This is because the robots have the ability to perceive the mood of their human companion through facial recognition technology, and then responding accordingly.

For more information on this technology, visit the La Trobe University Webpage

Filed in: Technology

Leave a Reply