Humanoid robots have been deployed in a Minnesota nursing home to care for patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s.
These robots, developed by a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota, are equipped to assist individuals with their emotional, physical and cognitive health – are believed to be the first in the US to focus on caring for patients with dementia.
‘I am extremely excited to be making history with my students by deploying humanoid robots in nursing homes to help care for our elderly,’ said Arshia Khan, a professor of computer science at the University of Minnesota at Duluth’s Swenson College of Science and Engineering.
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The humanoid robots are meant to provide a wide range of support and help patients who are experiencing early stage Alzheimer’s. Pictured above is one of the robots
One robot is a two-foot-tall model called NAO, and the other one stands four feet and is known as Pepper – but Khan emphasizes that the machine’s will supplement human workers rather than replace them.
‘They’re more for cognition and emotional support,’ she told DailyMail.com by phone. ‘They’re working on trying to improve their mood, telling jokes and stories.’
The robots will also be doing something called reminiscence therapy; in its traditional form, people and objects from a person’s past would be brought together on a regular basis in the nursing home to help them regain some memories.
‘In robotics, we are able to have the robot show pictures videos and play music from that time and remind them of that particular event,’ Khan, who has a total of 25 robots in her lab, explained.
Computer Science Professor Arshia Khan, pictured above with two robots from her lab, emphasized that the robots will not displace human workers but will instead handles tasks that are more repetitive at nursing homes
‘The robot can dance can sing can play music and interact.
‘For fun, the robot can lead a bingo session.’
‘This is a major step and the beginning in helping improve the quality of life of elderly and people affected with dementia using humanoid robots,’ she adds.
Khan’s own interest in robotics goes back to a personal experience when she watched her mother struggle to take care of her father, who was suffering from congestive heart failure
Khan’s interest in robots as health caretakers stems from a personal experience.
Her father had congestive heart failure and was dying – and Khan watched her mother, who is petite, struggle to help him out of bed and care for him.
At the time, she wished she could have designed an artificial heart for him.
Khan began to think of how she could provide support in other ways for people in these circumstances.
A growing elderly population and a growing number of people suffering from dementia means that there will be more demand for workers in nursing homes. Pictured above is Khan and one of her robots
She began working with a cardiothoracic surgeon on a robot that would help people get out of bed.
‘If we don’t look for alternative solutions and think outside the box our elders will suffer.’ Khan, pictured above, is a computer science professor at the University of Minnesota
Khan notes there is a need for elderly assistance and a growing population of people affected by dementia.
According to World Health Organization estimates, there are more than 1 billion people over the age of 60, and that will rise to 1.4 billion by 2030 — which is one in six people, potentially requiring millions of nurses and home care aides.
As with other fields being disrupted by machines, the robots in nursing homes will handle some of the more repetitive tasks to free up humans for other work.
Khan said nursing homes in other states, including Colorado and Pennsylvania, have reached out about the robots.
‘Humanoid robots in helping elderly is the way to move ahead in caring for our elderly,’ says Khan.
‘The growth in elderly population and simultaneous growth in the people affected with dementia, staff shortages and lack of people who can for our elderly is a problem that is growing exponentially.
‘If we don’t look for alternative solutions and think outside the box our elders will suffer.’
This facility is the first of eight nursing homes across Minnesota to start utilizing humanoid robots and the other nursing homes will get their robots in the coming weeks.
The robot deployment was made possible in part thanks to a $2 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
WILL YOUR JOB BE TAKEN BY A ROBOT? PHYSICAL JOBS ARE AT THE GREATEST RISK
Physical jobs in predictable environments, including machine-operators and fast-food workers, are the most likely to be replaced by robots.
Management consultancy firm McKinsey, based in New York, focused on the amount of jobs that would be lost to automation, and what professions were most at risk.
The report said collecting and processing data are two other categories of activities that increasingly can be done better and faster with machines.
This could displace large amounts of labour – for instance, in mortgages, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing.
Conversely, jobs in unpredictable environments are least are risk.
The report added: ‘Occupations such as gardeners, plumbers, or providers of child- and eldercare – will also generally see less automation by 2030, because they are technically difficult to automate and often command relatively lower wages, which makes automation a less attractive business proposition.’