Pepper the robot steals the show at NASHiCS conference


AMP’s sister title, Care Home Professional, this week found out about the exciting potential of assistive technology in care at the National Association for Safety and Health in Care Services (NASHiCS) conference in Northamptonshire.

Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly provided a fascinating insight into research being carried out into assistive technology at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) during the two-day bi-annual event in Daventry.

Praminda took to the floor with Pepper, the world’s first social humanoid robot able to recognise faces and basic human emotions.

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Designed by SoftBank Robotics, the 4 foot tall robot is able to hold conversations, give medication prompts and reminders, dance and provide entertainment, and supervise and guide activities such as exercise programmes and simple household tasks.

BRL’s ultimate aim is to help facilitate an assistive technology ecosystem able to support people’s needs by integrating with care planning and emedication systems as well as entertainment apps.

Retailing at around £18,000 each, the Pepper robot has been being trialled in a partnership between BRL and the Extra Care Charitable Trust, as well as in a separate project at Advinia Healthcare and TLC Care.

“We are trying to see how we can support carers to be more effective and efficient and take away some of the more mundane tasks and free up more face to face time with residents,” Praminda told delegates.

The researcher provided an overview of the full range of assistive technologies that range from socially assistive products such as Pepper and the Amazon Alexa to physically assistive robotics.

Praminda and her team are developing the IDress – Assistive Interactive Robotic System to provide elderly people with support in dressing.

Elsewhere, innovations include the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) – the world’s first cyborg type robot being developed by Cyberdyne in Japan. A fusion of man, machine and information, HAL provides greater mobility for the physically challenged.

Other exciting technology focused on providing support with menial tasks around the home includes the Dyson robot vacuum cleaner and the TIAGo robot whose multi-functional arm is able to carry a 15kg load.

Innovate UK’s JUVA modular robotic system provides support in the home to the bed bound or immobile. Mounted on a ceiling track the robotic arm and hoist system can fetch household items and provide support with standing and walking.

Other mobility assistive technologies include the Panasonic robot bed which converts into a wheelchair and the Neo walker which uses artificial intelligence to adapt to someone’s physical needs and provide exercise activities and guidance.

Telepresence robots are also being developed to allow carers to provide remote controlled support for people in the home.  Developed in Japan, the technology enables carers to carry out household tasks remotely through robotics which are manipulated through the use of 3D Virtual Reality glasses.

In concluding, Praminda issued an appeal to care home providers to help explore the potential of assistive technology.

“We need care providers to be more adventurous and help pilot this technology” she said.

“We need care providers’ input to inform and shape how the technology is developed.

“The push needs to come from them so that we are able to help link their fragmented systems.”

While concerns over the potential ethical implications of assistive technologies remain, it is clear that the technology is here to stay and will play an increasingly prominent role in care in the 21st century.

Tags : assistive technology
Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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