In recent times such collaborative robots are becoming available and they are already usable for certain scenarios. Please check out the videos below for some impressions (not all of the are real-world applications yet, some are only demo’s from suppliers):
UPA4SAR. User-oriented profiling and adaptation for socially supported robotics. The aim of the project is to design an adaptive behavior of a robot system that is responsible for maintaining the Activity of Daily Living (ADL) of the user in the case of people with dementia.
Main roboticist involved is Silvia Rossi of the University of Naples.
UPA4SAR. User-centered Profiling and Adaptation for Socially Assistive Robotics. The project goal is to design an adaptive behavior of a robotic system that is in charge of monitoring the user’s Activity of Daily Living (ADL) in the case of people with dementia.
ALIZ-E The ALIZ-E project set out in 2010 to build the artificial intelligence (AI) for small social robots and to study how young people would respond to these robots. FP7-ICT-248116
It pays to have a look at the cause of the poll, which was news (i.e. on Zorgvisie) about a German ‘Helper Robot’, the Casero (see picture). There are more of such robots under development (e.g. Care-o-Bot). One could describe them as driving carts, with clever bits and pieces, that can serve drinks and food for example.
According to the researchers developing him the idea behind Casero is (source: Robotics Wire):
When the Duisburg researchers observed the care workers’ daily routines and tasks, they soon noticed that there was seldom enough time to exchange a few kind words with patients. Staff shortages were everywhere. While the robots run errands and allow games to be played on their displays, care workers could devote more of their time to caring for the elderly.
Well, that line of reasoning is interesting, but illogical if buying an maintaining robots is as expensive as hiring people. Then it should be seen as replacement. For Zorgvisie also report:
The robot is hardly cheap. “Casero is as expensive as a fulltime hire”, says Volker Bessler of the care home in Stuttgart where the first service robot was tested.
In this light, it is understandable that most people rejected the idea that it constitutes an improvement. And then we have not even discussed all the things the robot can not do.
An interactive cuddly toy to bring along to bed to help you sleep or soothes you in the night when you wake. Which kid would not like to have one? And in the care for the mentally disabled it could also help a lot of people.
Charged by Robots that Care and Sherpa, a care facility where Jeroen works part time, a group of young students has started to design a Sleeping Buddy. This is done at a Duthc Technasium, for the Research and Design lessons which are the core of that school.
A first impression of the Sleeping Buddy
The idea behind this cuddlebot is that it can measure sleep using various sensors, and that it can try to improve sleep, through display-options (lichts, music, etc.) and the interaction with the problematic sleeper (for example through joining and calming their heartbeat or breathing frequency).
A similar development is taking place at Somnox. Or, to be honest, they are a bit further 🙂
But with this initiative Sylvia Loos is involved, of Nyx Zorg voor Slaap and of Sherpa. She and Theo of Nyx have a very large experience with sleeping problems of people with mental disabilities and they are helping to achieve a good design.
The company Focal Meditech, based in Tilburg, has signed an agreement with the Danish Technology Institute, the European distributor of Paro, that gives Focal distribution rights for the Benelux countries (the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg). Previously Paro could not be ordered direclty in the Netherlands; now, delivery, with service and guarantees by an ackowledged Dutch provider of healtcare aids is possible.
A good thing for the eldercare in the Netherlands, where tens of Paro’s are already in use but where a proper distribution chain was still lacking.
Is it possible to give a good definition of social robotics? Is it a field of scientific study or is it only a catch phrase for exciting robot stuff? If it is a field of study, can we identify what belongs to it and what is outside of the field? Should we already set such boundaries or should we wait a while to give maximum growing room to the first seeds being planted by enthusiastic researchers and engineers around the world?
Instead of answering these questions here directly, I want to give you two answers of a different kind.
The first answer is that sometimes things can best be defined by identifying good examples (see explanation of Prototype Theory). If enough people can agree on good examples of social robotics then this defines the phrase ‘Social Robotics’ as a usable concept. This kind of definition plays an important role in the study of language and, given that the word ‘robot’ came from literature rather than science, it appears appropriate to try to define it in this way. Therefore, I collected the following videos that, in my opinion, each deal with one or more aspects of social robotics. They are all good examples of social robotics.
As a second answer, which may be more useful if you need more clarity fast, here is a reference to the call for participation of our recent workshop ‘Robots that Care‘, which contains a description of the field of social robotics.