A research group at Trinity College Dublin has developed a social care robot to support the elderly and those with degenerative conditions such as dementia.
Stevie has been created to free up carers’ time to carry out more important aspects of the job, such as personal care, rather than the sometimes time-consuming aspects, such as checking someone is safe and well, without intrusion.
Conor McGinn, an assistant professor of design and robotics at Trinity College Dublin who was heavily involved in the project said the robot does look a little like a human, to be a bit more familiar, but includes design elements to help it doe its job more efficiently, such as wheels to whizz around.
It understands speech and commands, such as fetching medication and communicating with residents in care homes to offer some companionship and social interaction.
“Stevie can also help users stay socially connected,” McGinn explained in a post on the Independent. “For example, the screens in the head can facilitate a Skype call, eliminating the challenges many users face using telephones. Stevie can also regulate room temperatures and light levels, tasks that help to keep the occupant comfortable and reduce possible fall hazards.”
McGinn hopes this is just the first of many robots that can support carers. The next iteration will hopefully integrate human empathy, compassion and decision-making to make it act more like a human. However, he explained that the idea was never to replace the need for carers.
“Stevie would provide benefits to carers as well as elderly or disabled users. The job of a professional care assistant is incredibly demanding, often involving long, unsocial hours in workplaces that are frequently understaffed,” he said.
“By taking on some of the more routine, mundane work, robots could free carers to spend more time engaging with residents.”