More New Zealand IP Communications Stories
December 19, 2011
The University of Auckland and a cluster of South Korean companies have launched a multi-robotic study at the Auckland retirement village. Groundbreaking research into healthcare robotics could change the lives of the ageing population and create new expert opportunities for a range of New Zealand companies.
The Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI (News - Alert)), along with UniServices (a company under the University of Auckland), the Telecommunications Research Institute, the Yujin Robot Company, the ED Corporation and Isan solutions together launched a project in 2008 they called Healthbots.
The aim of the project was to provide cost effect care and entertainment for the older generation. Professor Bruce Macdonald, Head of the Healthbots project and from the engineering faculty, said this project will be geared towards older people and their caregivers.
“We want to help older people be more independent where they want to be, and to be happier and more socially interactive using the robot as a conduit for interaction. We want to help care staff by doing simple tasks and giving staff more time to spend on the more human and more caring things that both staff and older people prefer to do together,” said Macdonald.
The Healthbots project initially focused on groups and questionnaires to find out what people wanted in a healthcare robot. A pilot study was then completed using one type of robot, Cafero or, as the project team called him, Charlie. Charlie would perform basic task such as taking blood pressure and entertaining residents with jokes and music.
Ngaire Kerse, Professor of General Practice and Primary Healthcare, said these studies are an important way to evaluate healthcare and use technology to their advantage. “Robots could provide an interesting option and also be an aid to communication and health monitoring,” said Kerse.
Dr. Liz Broadbent, a Senior Lecturer in Psychological Medicine, agreed with Kerse saying this project could really enhance every day living and offers a huge potential to patients. “We have found that pre-existing ideas and attitudes towards robots influence how people respond. Another key factor is how human-like the robots look and sound. These findings have helped us improve the design of the robots for specific tasks and highlighted the need to address negative preconceptions,” said Broadbent.
Right now the study is looking into medicine robots that would remind patients to take their medicine, activities trials so a robot could locate a patient, and therapeutic robots to help patients stress and improve their motivation.
Edited by Rich Steeves