ICSR 2011, the 2nd International Conference on Social Robotics

Sorry, this entry is only available in Nederlands.

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Kaspar, a news update about a robot for autistic children

A nice story was in the news today (Washington Examiner): Kaspar the friendly robot helps autistic kids.

Ben Robins, a researcher who has already done a lot of work studying how robots might benefit children with autism, is quoted as saying:

“Children with autism don’t react well to people because they don’t understand facial expressions,” said Ben Robins, a senior research fellow in computer science at the University of Hertfordshire who specializes in working with autistic children. “Robots are much safer for them because there’s less for them to interpret and they are very predictable.”

The article neatly decribes the current state of the science behind the idea that social robots can help autistic children to learn and train certain social skills (basically, there are promising case studies, but a long-term effect study is lacking). And it mentions the opinions of various researchers, in the field and outside of it, on the merits of the work with Kaspar (which has been ongoing since 2005).

I also found a nice BBC video from 2008 about Kaspar and Robins and others’ work:

And there is a long, Japanese documentary about Kaspar and the work of Robins et al.

For those with a mind for reading, check out papers on the work with Kaspar AND Robins, or you can browse Robins’ extensive publication list.

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PopSci article about robots and autism

There is a very interesting featured article on PopSci called The New Face of Autism Therapy. It highlights the use of a robot called Bandit that has been ‘designed to engage children with autism’.

Bandit

Bandit, a robot designed to engage children with autism. Photo by John B. Carnett

The reader comments are also interesting and many are made by people with autism or by parents of children with autism.

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Robots that Care at Kennisalliantie and Syntens

Themabijeenkomst ZorgRobotica (KennisAlliantie) from FunnelVision on Vimeo.

Recently, on October 25, Jeroen spoke at a workshop about healthcare robotics. It was organised bij Kennisalliantie and Syntens, who wish to set things in motion, especially in the Dutch ‘Medical Delta’ (roughly Rotterdam-Delft-Leiden). Prof. Luc de Witte opened the day, followed by Boudewijn Wisse, and finally Jeroen Arendsen. In the afternoon the discussion was continued in groups. The video gives a good impression of the day. For Robots that Care the initial contact with Zorgbelang, represented by mrs. Aat Hoffius, may well lead to further developments.

Links:
The website Zorgrobotica
The report of the day

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A prototype robotic scrub nurse?

A fairly far fetched robot was in the news recently: Future Surgeons May Use Robotic Nurse, ‘Gesture Recognition’.

ScienceDaily (Feb. 3, 2011) — Surgeons of the future might use a system that recognizes hand gestures as commands to control a robotic scrub nurse or tell a computer to display medical images of the patient during an operation.

Purdue industrial engineering graduate student Mithun Jacob uses a prototype robotic scrub nurse with graduate student Yu-Ting Li. Researchers are developing a system that recognizes hand gestures to control the robot or tell a computer to display medical images of the patient during an operation. (Credit: Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

Purdue industrial engineering graduate student Mithun Jacob uses a prototype robotic scrub nurse with graduate student Yu-Ting Li. Researchers are developing a system that recognizes hand gestures to control the robot or tell a computer to display medical images of the patient during an operation. (Credit: Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

For related stories see these posts on:
Robot Gossip: Robot Scrub Nurse
Nursing Advocacy: “The robot should be able to do everything a nurse can,” Dr. Treat said.

I believe, partly based the insightful comments given at Nursing Advocacy, that it is not a good idea to replace human scrub nurses with robotic ones. It would be much better to solve the shortage of nurses). In this case, there is so much a scrub nurse does, so much more than a robot can do, for at least the next fifty years or so.

But there will be a publication in the Communications of the ACM soon. That will be an interesting read :-)

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More Robot Helpers by the Bed?

Internet polls. Hardly reliable, but sometimes interesting to read. The Dutch website Zorgvisie held a poll about: ‘More robot helpers by the bed. An improvement for healthcare or not?’. The result: 73 procent of the 371 responding visitors of Zorgvisie.nl felt it was not an improvement. But what does this mean exactly?

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.

The Casero Helper Robot

The Casero Helper Robot (source: Zorgvisie)

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.

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Fujitsu’s Robot Teddy Bear


A collection of movies.

At CES 2011, look who’s there
It’s Fujitsu’s Robot Teddy Bear!

For about two years Fujitsu has been displaying this robot teddy bear at various tradeshows. They tell us it is ‘still in development’ or ‘in a concept phase’. It does seem to be responding better every time I see it. In any case it manages to win the hearts of many already.

The area of (useful) application for this robot is comparable to that of Paro. Fujitsu Labs develops this “social robot with a personality” for use in “robot therapy”, for example for patients that suffer from dementia, says Fujitsu. The bear can display basic emotions through animatronics and react to its surroundings.

It can be connected to a PC using a USB port. Sensors enable it to respond to external stimuli; it is equipped with 13 sensors (e.g. a webcam, touch sensors, etc.) in different locations on its body. The bear has a camera in its nose and machine vision to recognize human shapes and faces. It can see a person nearby and, for example, turn in their direction and make eye contact. It als senses being patted or stroked in various places and can respond, for example, by waking up (from sleeping).

The bear can apparently talk with the voice of a young boy, using a speech synthesizer and a built-in speaker. Thus, the sound can be synchronised with the robot’s other behavior.

The robot bears are said to capable of up to 300 movement patterns including raising its arms, looking downwards and kicking its feet. The movement are combined with display of “emotions” to signal happiness, sadness and anger, says Fujitsu. And since the robot can be connected to the PC, new movements can be recorded and displayed.

What makes these robots interesting, says Fujitsu, is that they are interactive and real, in a world that is full of screens. The bears can be played with physically and are likely to integrate easily into people’s lives, says the company.

Fujitsu hopes its teddy bear can help develop “robot therapy,” a way to use robots to help people overcome challenges or problems, comparable to how “animal therapy” is used today, only without the hassle of having to clean up or deal with grumpy animals.

Hopefully we will be seeing more from this robot teddy bear soon when it comes available as a product. I think Paro could use a little competition in the market, don’t you?

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Posted in Autism, Children, Dementia, Elderly, Huggable robots, Paro, Snoezelen | Leave a comment

Robotic Eating Aids

Perhaps robotic eating aids are not as exciting as Paro or other social, interactive robots, but they can make a huge difference for both clients and caregivers. Eating is important and we do it frequently, so if a client with loss of arm function has to depend on a caregiver to feed them it is a great loss of independency. Sharing a meal is also a social event and not being able to join in as an equal partner is a loss of social participation. Thus, robotic eating aids, that can (partially) give back the ability to eat independently and to join a family or group dinner not only relieve a time consuming burden from caregivers, but also add to clients’ quality of life. Below is an collection of movies of robotic eating aids. Many of these are readily available, also in the Netherlands, and are even paid for by healthcare insurance companies.

More information, for example about offers, suppliers and financial arrangements, can be found at Handy-Wijzer.

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We asked the robot in the street his opinion…

As you can see, Robots that Care strikes a sympathetic chord with the robot in the street :-)

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Docter Marcel Heerink – Acceptatie van robots door ouderen

Sinds vandaag, 3 november 2010, is Nederland een docter rijker, en wel dr. Marcel Heerink. Hij verdedigde met verve op deze dag bij de UvA zijn proefschrift ‘Assessing acceptance of assistive social robots by aging adults’. In de oppositie, die hem het vuur aan de schenen legde, een interest ‘robotgezelschap’: Naast promotores Bob Wielinga, Ben Kröse en Vanessa Evers, waren ook aangeschoven Kerstin Dautenhahn, Luc de Witte, Mark Neerincx, Lynda Hardman en Frans Groen.

Zie ook dit item met Heerink in Ochtendspits van 2 november, even doorspoelen naar 14:30.

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