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Can robots cure loneliness?


Quality of Life Observer

- Seniors

- Apr 12 2017

Robots have been a source of fascination since the Renaissance, but they’ve never been more talked about than today. “It’s not that robots are becoming more human, but that humans are part robot,” says Hiroshi Ishiguro, an artificial intelligence expert and inventor of some of the world’s most advanced humanoids robots. In reality, maybe it’s a bit of both. While we’re fascinated by the technology, it’s not always easy to see how a machine can facilitate human interactions.


In fact, robots are at work in many communities of care today. They are gradually being introduced to support seniors and their caregivers.

 

The Silver Wing Care Home in central Tokyo is a pioneering institution equipped with the most up-to-date care robots, which provide comfort and intellectual stimulation for the elderly residents. In one example, they use a robot in the shape of a baby harp seal to provide stimulation for dementia patients. “I can honestly say that I observed a change for the better among patients,” says Ninon Lambert, a researcher who has developed brain trainer app for robots. “When they touch a robot, they know that it’s just a robot – but the interaction is enough to stimulate the brain.”

 

More importantly, robots perform tasks that free up caregivers so they can have more personal interactions with seniors. That’s where the cure to loneliness comes in. Robotic sensors can detect when residents are in danger, such as a fall from their bed. A robotic device that looks like something Sigourney Weaver used to defeat her extra-terrestrial enemy in the movie Aliens gives caregivers added strength to lift and support seniors who need it. 

 

By reducing the burdens like these, robots can also make a tough job easier and more attractive. Developed countries across the world are facing a shortage of care workers – Japan, which anticipates a shortfall of 800,000 caregivers by 2025, is at the forefront of this looming crisis. So, while it might seem like a stretch, robots are curing loneliness because they allow for the human interactions to be more meaningful. 

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Can robots cure loneliness?

Robots have been a source of fascination since the Renaissance, but they’ve never been more talked about than today. “It’s not that robots are becoming more human, but that humans are part robot,” says Hiroshi Ishiguro, an artificial intelligence expert and inventor of some of the world’s most advanced humanoids robots. In reality, maybe it’s a bit of both. While we’re fascinated by the technology, it’s not always easy to see how a machine can facilitate human interactions.

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