Robots and the Future of Caregiving

Tangy the robot photoSocial Robot Tangy created by the University of Toronto

Engineering Professor Goldie Nejat from the University of Toronto was in the news last week after announcing that mobile social robot Tangy will be part of a pilot study being conducted at a Toronto long-term care home. Tangy’s role at the home will be to schedule and facilitate bingo games while encouraging and assisting players who need help.

CBC News reports that “health-care robots represent the biggest source of funding for her lab from government and industry”. As we discussed in a previous blog Japan is leading the race (with generous government funding) to create robots to help care for their growing older adult population. An MIT Technology Review article opines that “as robots become safer, smarter, and more capable, robotics companies are eyeing elder care as a huge potential market”.

The use of robots in caregiving raises several ethical questions. Sherry Turkle from MIT in Boston is quoted in the CBC report as saying “We’re kind of setting ourselves up for really inauthentic relationships and I just think we should ask ourselves why we are doing this?” Founded in 2011 by Turkle, the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self suggests that the use of robotics raises “fundamental questions about selfhood, identity, community, and what it means to be human”.

Turkle’s latest book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each Other explores how technology can provide the illusion of companionship.

What do you think? Would you access robots to help with your caregiver responsibilities?

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