Robots providing senior assistance to the elderly and the disabled have been making the news lately, but researchers and engineers have been working on them for years. I recall watching the Jetsons Family cartoon while growing up and loving Rosie the Robot. The personable Rosie was the Jetson's maid, but the senior assistance Carebots that were unveiled at the 2005 International Robots & Vision Show and Conference in Chicago were not quite the modern day Rosie, but close. Carebots are designed to be more of a traveling camera that helps you to keep watch on those in need of senior assistance. Still, the Carebots asks questions, can provide senior assistance such as reminding your loved one to take medications and can offer other reminders such as watching a favorite television show.
The newer 2009 versions seem a bit more like Rosie, especially one being developed by NEC Japan and Australian computer engineer Dr. Rajiv Khosla from Melbourne's La Trobe University. This is a type of senior assistance that could really work. Dr. Rajiv Khosla and his team have designed software that is able to read and interpret human emotions and responses.
At first, the thought of robots providing senior assistance bothered me, but as I've been pondering it the last few weeks, the idea is growing on me. How many folks needing senior assistance feel they are bothering others and don't want to ask? I doubt they would feel that way about a robot offering them similar senior assistance. The other consideration is that a senior assistance robot may offer help while still allowing some independence and autonomy.
News Technology reports that, By 2050, Europe is expected to have more than 80 million people over the age of 65. Many will be able to live active, independent lives, but some will need more help, and with birth-rates dropping some countries are looking at the options for robotic care.
As I wrote above, senior assistance robots that can utilize a camera to keep an eye on a loved one and help them to remember important tasks, such as taking medication have already been created. There are also lawn mowing and cleaning robots. Many could use senior assistance with the lawn or cleaning and remain independent. I would never want a senior assistance robot to replace the caring touch of a human, but I do believe these robots could easily become a senior assistance tool that may help some seniors remain independent longer with them.
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