The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) describes robots as machines that can be used to do jobs. In today’s society it has become commonplace for robots to routinely perform manufacturing and military jobs. But what if robots were created to do nursing and recreational therapy jobs in long term care homes?
According to an article in Maclean’s magazine entitled The Curse of Small Families the government of Japan recently granted $25 million to 24 companies to develop ‘nursing care robot equipment’. The Japan Times quotes an executive involved in the project as saying that by 2018 they hope to, “achieve a situation where every senior citizens’ home, or one in every three or four facilities, will have at least one.”
Japan’s Toyota Partner Robot Company is one of the corporations involved in the nursing care robot project. Partner Robot is a series of robots that ‘assist people with a combination of caring and intelligence’. One example is Robina, described by Toyota as, “a robot that can help provide medical and nursing care or perform housework. It is able to think and move for itself, carry and use objects, and even converse with people. In the future, it is hoped that Robina will become a trusted partner, assisting doctors and nurses and looking after patients and the elderly wherever medical and nursing care are provided”.
Robots are currently being used in Japanese hospitals and extended care facilities to help reduce patient stress and improve socialization. The Paro Therapeutic Robot was developed by the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology group. Paro the robotic harp seal is used for animal therapy. Paro has 5 sensors and is able to, “learn to behave in a way that the user prefers, and to respond to its new name. For example, if you stroke it every time you touch it, Paro will remember your previous action and try to repeat that action to be stroked. If you hit it, Paro remembers its previous action and tries not to do that action”.
In the United States the Stanford Center on Longevity’s mission is to redesign long life. The Center studies the nature and development of the human life span, looking for innovative ways to use science and technology to solve the problems of people over 50 in order to improve the well-being of people of all ages.
Another American company in the forefront of robotics technology is the iRobot Corporation. The company designs robots for homeowners, educators, commercial use and defense and security. The robot ‘Ava 500’ will be available in early 2014. The robot can be activated remotely by tablet to allow individuals to drive the robot to a location within a building and teleport the individual in via high definition video and audio. So essentially it replaces the users head with a screen mounted on a mobile base that replaces the body.
Does the near future have ‘Ava 500’ remote doctors caring for older adults with the assistance of ‘Robina’ and ‘Paro’? What do you think?