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£34m government investment could see care robots revolutionise UK care industry

The UK has moved one step closer to developing robots capable of providing support to those who need it most.

Thanks to a £34m government investment, the UK’s biggest research programme entirely dedicated to making autonomous systems safe and trustworthy for public use has launched.

The funding will allow for the development of robots to one day fulfil tasks such as helping an elderly person up after a fall and raising the alarm, delivering food to an older person at mealtimes, and even ensuring they take crucial medication at the correct time.

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Autonomous systems are currently built across industries to solve challenges, but in order to be used by people they need to be designed to be safe, keep data secure and have a clear set of rules in order for them make effective decisions.

The cutting-edge programme will undertake research into their design, for example ensuring robots are better protected against cyber-attacks and that they demonstrate principles like respect, fairness and equality enabling them to eventually be used in environments like care homes and hospitals.

It will provide developers, policy makers and regulators with access to world leading experts, the latest information and guidelines around the technology.

In the healthcare sector, resulting applications, such as care robots, could work in tandem with professionals to assist and complement their work, and help relieve pressures.

Science minister, Chris Skidmore, said: “A staggering one in seven people in the UK are now expected to be over 75 years old by 2040. As our society ages, most of us will have to care for a loved one, whether it’s a grandparent or a parent or a partner.”

Adding: “It’s vital that we meet the needs of this ageing society, and through cutting edge research like this we will ensure that as technology advances, the UK leads the way in designing and adopting it, growing our status as a global science superpower.”

This announcement follows previous government investment in a Bristol based project which has already developed a prototype of a robot called CHIRON – designed to support older adults with mobility and other ageing-related impairments.

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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