Watch: an Irish university developed a robot to battle loneliness
An Irish university has developed a self-help robot to reduce loneliness among the elderly and those living in care homes.
Engineers from Trinity College, Dublin, unveiled Stevie II, Ireland's first socially assistive robot with with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) features, reported Press Association.
Stevie II is the successor to Stevie, a prototype assistance robot who took Ireland by storm in 2017. The concept behind it was initially to carry out menial chores in care homes like automatically reminding residents to take their medication.
Instead Stevie worked its way up into the hearts of those living in the homes, proving to be fun to talk to and lifting their spirits.
Stevie II now has even bigger shoes to fill. It has received a ‘significant technological upgrade’ with advanced AI capabilities. It’s also able to connect to wifi, Bluetooth, has voice recognition and can make an emergency call once given a voice command should anything untoward happen.
Stevie II is more mobile and dextrous, and uses advanced sensing technologies including laser rangefinders, depth cameras, as well as tactile, inertial and vision sensors to interact intelligently with its environment - humanising it for users.
“Stevie can have a wide range of high-impact uses, which may involve performing numerous assistive tasks, helping caregivers, and may even provide new interfaces to existing technologies – like video calling, smart sensors, social media – that can be inaccessible to many older adults,” said , Dr Conor McGinn, Assistant Professor in Trinity’s School of Engineering and principal investigator on the project.
The engineers consulted with a wide range of experts during the robot’s development, including nurses and caregivers, as well as older adults living at home or in long-term care facilities. Among the first to try out the robot was ALONE, an Irish organisation that supports older people to age at home using technology to keep the elderly independent and socially connected.
“There is an assumption that older people and technology don’t mix, but the response to Stevie from the older people we work with shows that this is simply not the case,” said its CEO, Seán Moynihan.
The Trinity team has piloted Stevie II with the Army Distaff Foundation, a US-based non-profit organisation that operates Knollwood Retirement Community.
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