Body and Mind

Dementia sector backs social robot trials

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Social robots are helping improve the quality of life for people with dementia, and aged care and mental health providers are taking note.

Representatives from the sector will join Labor Senator Helen Polley at La Trobe for a demonstration of the social spin offs the technology can provide. The assistive robots can talk, sing, dance, play games, tell the weather and read the newspaper.

In a joint research venture between La Trobe University and the global electronics Corporation NEC, the robots have been placed in the homes of people with dementia.

Lead researcher, Professor Rajiv Khosla, from the Research Centre for Computers, Communication and Social Innovation and La Trobe’s Business School, said 23 home based and residential trials have been carried out in the past four years in residential care facilities and households in Melbourne.

“The assistive robots improved the emotional wellbeing and augmented good memories of people with dementia and made them feel more productive and useful. The robots also provided respite to carers and partners. They supported caregivers in residential care facilities in effective ways,” Professor Khosla said.

The robots named Charles, Sophie, Betty, Lucy, Matilda and Jack belong to the PaPeRo family of robots developed by NEC, Japan. They can make phone calls and remind people about their social events and other aspects which make them more resilient.

Professor Khosla said people could communicate with the social robots by voice, their face, feelings or by using a touch panel.

“Aged care and mental health representatives are interested in our social robots and this is recognition that they are helping vulnerable people and their carers.

“The next step is to make this technology available to more people and create long term sector and business partnerships to make this a reality.”


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