Do you remember Rosie, the friendly and capable robot maid from the cartoon series The Jetsons? She was in charge of doing the housework in the family’s futuristic home, while also serving as a companion for the characters – always being there for them in their time of need. What might have been a quirky science-fiction idea in the 60s is now a reality: semi-intelligent robots are in development, capable of moving around the house and performing pre-programmed tasks. The future is here indeed!
Kuri, the Best Example of Robotic Companions
When talking about robot caregivers, don’t imagine human-like machines run entirely by artificial intelligent. These constructions are nowhere near sentient, instead think about a Roomba in the body of Wall-E with the task management abilities of Siri. Case number one: Kuri.
This cute little robot is fitted with environmental scanners and a learning algorithm, and is therefore capable of zipping between the rooms without bumping into anything. It has emotive eyes, meaning that Kuri blinks, smiles or nods when addressed. It can also play music or take pictures during a party.
ElliQ, the Senior Caregiver Robot
At the moment, companion robots like Kuri seem like a novelty, but the technology is heavily marketed towards seniors who live independently. Even though older people and modern technology aren’t always a good match, the chances are high they’ll love this stuff. Case number two: meet ElliQ, a stationary companion robot that acts as a friend and caregiver for seniors.
Closely resembling a designer lamp, ElliQ can tilt and swivel its head to imitate human gestures. The device works hand-in-hand with a tablet, but the two-way voice communication system allows it to play voice prompts and receive answers.
ElliQ is programmed to learn the aging person’s habits. It reminds the elderly owner to take their meds, instructs them to exercise regularly, connects them to family members via Skype and even recommends continuing their game on the tablet. The caregiver does all of this through voice commands, of course, to help the elderly interact with technology more ably.
Companion Robots Saving Senior Lives
It’s easy to be skeptical about the concept of caregiver robots, since aging adults are often stubborn and dislike having to learn fancy new doodads. However, these inventions have proven to be more useful than you might first think.
For example, companion bots offer round-the-clock care and companionship for their masters. If an emergency situation would require a real-life caregiver’s intervention then currently it is the likes of medical alert systems that will come to the rescue and call for help on the spot. It wouldn’t be a surprise, then, to see robot caregivers fitted with a medical help button of their own in case of an emergency that requires human intervention.
Digital Friends to Save Lonely Seniors
Also, just because they aren’t real doesn’t mean that the elderly can’t grow fond of these electronic companions. Japanese caregiving homes have deployed bear-faced companion robots for the residents and the staff discovered that the seniors are more likely to get out of bed if there is someone – or something – that they can interact with. Both Kuri and ElliQ produce gestures that help the human mind attribute a real personality to them, elevating the lifeless machinery to a pet-like status.
But most importantly, caregiver bots bring order to an aging person’s life. Devices like ElliQ constantly monitor the homeowner’s activity levels and suggest new hobbies if necessary. Seniors are less likely to come up with excuses to go for a walk if their friendly companion is the one coming up with the idea. The bots can also motivate their masters to learn how to play chess, bridge or poker on the tablet and find them new playmates over the internet.
It’s been proven that bringing exciting new activities into a senior’s life may drastically reduce depression and suicidal thoughts for those above 65. On top of all that, the joy and excitement that could come from these digital companions will make their golden years truly worth living.
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