After obsessing over Captain Data and movies like iRobots, we always want to explore the possibility of having an Android in our home who help us in day-to-day work? Well robots maybe years away to do the housework, but they’re already helping out with senior citizens in nursing homes.
In an exclusive event organized by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Consulate-General, today I had an opportunity to meet two such social robots Charlie and Sofie, designed and developed by Research Center for Computers, Communication and Social Innovation, LaTrobe University under La Trobe’s PaPeRo program. The PaPeRo which stands for “Partner-type-Personal-Robot”, is a personal robot developed by La Trobe University in association with Japanese firm NEC Corporation. It is noted for its appearance and facial recognition system. The robot’s development began in 1997 with the first prototype, the R100. The name PaPeRo was adopted in 2001.
The program is headed by Prof. Rajiv Khosla who explained that, “these robots incorporates emotionally intelligent software, so that they can read a person’s feelings by the tone in their voice, and interact accordingly”. PaPeRo also have human attributes which include baby face like appearance, voice vocalization, face recognition, face registration and face tracking, facial expressions, gestures, body motion sensors, dance movements, touch sensors, emotion recognition and speech acoustics recognition. Matilda, another prototype robot can register and recognize upto 30 different faces.
The first in series field trials were conducted in nursing homes and home-based care facility setting. Data was collected in form of videos during the subject – robot interactions in group activities as-well-as individual sessions. The key outcome measured on 5 domain construct which include 1. Positive Engagement, 2. Acceptability through Reciprocity, 3. Personalization of Care, 4.Facilitating Healthy Eating and Living and 5. Sense of Usefulness through Mental Activity with PaPeRo.
In all the domains, PaPeRo showed significant engagement with study participants in both research setting. Most significant measure was the positive emotion engagement through singing and dance.
While answering questions, Dr. Khosla and Dr. MT Chu explained that, the research is in preliminary phase, which aimed to explore the feasibility of such assistive robots. Outcome from the qualitative studies suggested that, these robots has successfully eliminated the barriers of use of technology by elderly, and more importantly has had a positive impact on emotional well-being of the elderly, contributing towards enhancing their quality of life. He also highlighted the fact that, use of such platform may also help researchers to generate longitudinal data across the progression of illness which will eventually help us in developing and delivering more personalized healthcare.
“What we are doing is in the area of health we think in the coming years, in five to ten years this will, our work will in the area of you know emotional intelligent social robots will change the landscape of health care and the aged care paradigm and how aged care services actually are delivered” told Dr. Khosla.
Going further, I think the human-like assistive communication robots, might help not only in dementia care but also in several neuropsychiatric conditions like depression, psychosis, etc. where there is a need for regular follow up with the patients.
Rajiv Khosla, Mei-Tai Chu, Khanh Nguyen (2013). Enhancing Emotional Well Being of Elderly Using Assistive Social Robots in Australia International Conference on Biometrics and Kansei Engineering DOI: 10.1109/ICBAKE.2013.9