Tag Archives: seniors

CARESSES your elders (robots for support)

Culturally sensitive robots for elder care! It’s about time. The European Union has funded the Culture Aware Robots and Environmental Sensor Systems for Elderly Support (CARESSES) project being coordinated in Italy. A December 13, 2018 news item on phys.org describes the project,

Researchers have developed revolutionary new robots that adapt to the culture and customs of the elderly people they assist.

Population ageing has implications for many sectors of society, one of which is the increased demand on a country’s health and social care resources. This burden could be greatly eased through advances in artificial intelligence. Robots have the potential to provide valuable assistance to caregivers in hospitals and care homes. They could also improve home care and help the elderly live more independently. But to do this, they will have to be able to respond to older people’s needs in a way that is more likely to be trusted and accepted.
The EU-funded project CARESSES has set out to build the first ever culturally competent robots to care for the elderly. The groundbreaking idea involved designing these robots to adapt their way of acting and speaking to match the culture and habits of the elderly person they’re assisting.

“The idea is that robots should be capable of adapting to human culture in a broad sense, defined by a person’s belonging to a particular ethnic group. At the same time, robots must be able to adapt to an individual’s personal preferences, so in that sense, it doesn’t matter if you’re Italian or Indian,” explained researcher Alessandro Saffiotti of project partner Örebro University, Sweden, …

A December 13, 2018 (?) CORDIS press release, which originated the news item, adds more detail about the robots and their anticipated relationship to their elderly patients,

Through its communication with an elderly person, the robot will fine-tune its knowledge by adapting it to that person’s cultural identity and individual characteristics. Using this knowledge, it will be able to remind the elderly person to take their prescribed medication, encourage them to eat healthily and be active, or help them stay in touch with family and friends. The robot will also be able to make suggestions about the appropriate clothing for specific occasions and remind people of upcoming religious and other celebrations. It doesn’t replace a care home worker. Nevertheless, it will play a vital role in helping to make elderly people’s lives less lonely and reducing the need to have a caregiver nearby at all times.

Scientists are testing the first CARESSES robots in care homes in the United Kingdom and Japan. They’re being used to assist elderly people from different cultural backgrounds. The aim is to see if people feel more comfortable with robots that interact with them in a culturally sensitive manner. They’re also examining whether such robots improve the elderly’s quality of life. “The testing of robots outside of the laboratory environment and in interaction with the elderly will without a doubt be the most interesting part of our project,” added Saffiotti.

The innovative CARESSES (Culture Aware Robots and Environmental Sensor Systems for Elderly Support) robots may pave the way to more culturally sensitive services beyond the sphere of elderly care, too. “It will add value to robots intended to interact with people. Which is not to say that today’s robots are completely culture-neutral. Instead, they unintentionally reflect the culture of the humans who build and program them.”

Having had a mother who recently died in a care facility, I can testify to the importance of cultural and religious sensitivity on the part of caregivers. As for this type of robot not replacing anyone, I take that with a grain of salt. They always say that and I expect it’s true in the initial stages but once the robots are well established and working well? Why not? After all, they’re cheaper in many, many ways and with the coming tsunami of elders in many countries around the world, it seems to me that displacement by robots is an inevitability.

UK (United Kingdom) leads world in ‘compassionate’ technology

I’m not sure they can claim world leadership status but some group which calls itself ‘Public’ has indicated the UK (United Kingdom) outpaces its European brethren where ‘compassionate’ technology is concerned according to a May 17, 2018 article by Rick Kelsey for BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) news only,

The UK has more investments in compassionate technology companies than the rest of Europe put together, data from Public – which supports industry start-ups – suggests.

These companies are part of a sector estimated to be worth about £7bn, more than the financial tech sector – the new services such as current account apps disrupting traditional banking.

And the UK technology industry as a whole grew by 4.5% between 2016 and 2017, according to a Tech Nation report released today.

This is nearly three times the rate of UK gross domestic product (GDP), the amount the economy produces, which grew by 1.8% during the same period.

An example of ‘compassionate’ technology from Kelsey’s article,

[An] area where compassionate technology is growing is in combating loneliness in older people.

Technology is often designed for younger users, with touchscreens often failing to work for older users with dry hands, leaving them unable to communicate with others as easily.

“I find with my mobile, I have to sit down very carefully and do all this business,” says 84-year-old Marian, from Bromley. “I can’t do what the children do.”

But now she has a high-resolution screen, called Komp, controlled with a single dial.

It allows her to connect with her grandchildren, who can update it remotely with fresh pictures.

Karen Dolva, head of the company No Isolation that’s behind the product, says: “We’ve been forcing tech made for millennials on to seniors, and it doesn’t work.

“You can’t give them something that is just altered [for older people], you have to start over.”

There was also this (from Kelsey’s article),

The UK technology sector grew 2.6 times faster than the UK economy as a whole last year, new figures show. One of the biggest growth areas was in compassionate tech, with new apps and online services helping society’s most vulnerable.

“I ended up sofa surfing from place to place, so I didn’t really have anywhere [of my own],” 27-year-old Davina tells the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme.

She has been homeless for seven years.

She is training to become an accountant, thanks to funding raised through compassionate technology – a thriving UK sector in which private start-ups are using tech to provide health and welfare services for those most in need.

Maybe not ‘world-leading’, although it seems to me they have a good case for the claim, the combined efforts are quite impressive.