Posted on Feb 05, 2015, 6 a.m.
Interactive robots aim to provide support for dementia patients.
Worldwide, nearly 36 million people have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. At-present there is no cure for the disease, and consequently a number of efforts are focused on approaches for effective management. Technology giant NEC developed PaPeRo (“Partner-type Personal Robot,”) in 2000; since then, NEC has improved the robot's software capabilities, revised its hardware, and used it in numerous experiments at care facilities and in smart homes – where it has potential as a robotic assistant for the elderly. In experiments conducted at nursing homes, the robot would remind people of their daily routines, like when to take their medication. It also connected with a pedometer to encourage a more active lifestyle, and is able to measure basic health parameters such as blood pressure. Another Japanese high-tech firm, Fujitsu Labs has introduced a teddy bear stuffed animal with the goal of serving as “robot therapy” in geriatric medicine for patients that suffer from dementia. The robotic teddy bear can be plugged to a PC using a USB port. Sensors stuffed into it help it make some gestures such as lifting one of its furry hands up in response to external stimuli. The bears have a miniature camera built into their nose so they can automatically wake up from sleep state when they sense a person nearby and can turn in their direction. A voice synthesizer projects a boy’s voice sound from a built-in speaker and synchronized to the robot’s behavior. The robotic bears are capable of up to 300 movement patterns including raising its arms, looking downwards and kicking its feet. Such robotic assistive technologies aim to provide engaging and interactive support for dementia patients, and may someday reveal insights to help scientists develop approaches for effective disease prevention.
Read more on medical assistive robotics at: http://www.wired.com/2010/10/fujitsus-teddy-bear-robot/; and http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/home-robots/nec-shows-off-papero-petit-robot