Robots and other assistive technology may be inevitable in aged care moving into the future, but can they replace the human touch? Annie May reports. Reprinted from Aged Care INsite, Apr/May 2011, and expanded greatly since.
Standing at just 40cm tall and looking suspiciously like the latest toy their grandchildren have been dropping hints about for their upcoming birthdays, Matilda the robot doesn’t give the impression that she has much to offer in the way of care for the elderly.
So when placed in front of an aged care resident to talk about her diet, the resident doesn’t have high expectations. But on admitting to having a love of sweets, Matilda is quick to inform her about all the negative health impacts this indulgence can have. Becoming slightly anxious, – whether a result of being lectured by a bright orange robot or at the thought of having to cut back on her sweets – the resident is then shocked at being reassured by the robot.
How can it be that this baby-face robot can read emotions and give a sensitive response? The result of a breakthrough by Melbourne and Japanese scientists, Matilda is one of two robots, the other her brother Jack, which has been developed with ’emotional intelligent’ software.