Advinia Health Care plans to use culturally competent robots to help reduce anxiety and loneliness and provide continuity of care among its residents.
University of Bedfordshire, Middlesex University and Advinia were the UK partners of the largest global study investigating the use of culturally competent robots, known as CARESSES (short for Culture-Aware Robots and Environmental Sensor Systems for Elderly Support). The project was coordinated by University of Genova, in Italy, which developed the robot’s artificial intelligence.
The project, which was jointly funded by the EU and the Japanese government, revealed adults in care homes who used the robot (up to 18 hours across two weeks) saw a significant improvement in their mental health.
After two weeks of using the system there were small but positive results on loneliness severity among users and a significant positive impact on participants’ attitudes towards robots.
Dr Sanjeev Kanoria, founder and chairman of Advinia, said: ‘This is the only artificial intelligence that can enable an open-ended communication with a robot and a vulnerable resident. We are working towards implementing this into routine care of vulnerable people to reduce anxiety and loneliness and provide continuity of care.
‘The robot was tested in Advinia’s care homes in the UK. Now we are working towards bringing the robot into routine care, so it can be of real help to older adults and their families.’
The CARESSES study is the first time researchers have collaborated to explore the possibility of developing culturally competent robots, which are able to adapt how they behave and speak to the culture, customs and manners of the person they assist.
Lead author of the evaluation, Dr Chris Papadopoulos from the University of Bedfordshire, said: ‘This study is ground-breaking because it is the largest ever investigation into the use of autonomous social robots for older adults in care settings.
‘The results show that using the CARESSES artificial intelligence in robots such as Pepper has real potential benefit to a world that is witnessing more people living longer with fewer people to look after them. Poor mental health and loneliness are significant health concerns and we have demonstrated that robots can help alleviate these.’
Irena Papadopoulos, Professor of transcultural health and nursing at Middlesex University, was responsible for developing the cultural concepts and guidelines so that the robots were able to respond to the culture-specific needs and preferences of older people.
She said: ‘In the UK alone, 15,000 people are over 100 years of age and this figure will only increase. Socially assistive, intelligent robots for older people could relieve some pressures in hospitals and care homes. No-one is talking about replacing humans – the evaluation demonstrates that we are a long way from doing that – but it also reveals that robots could support existing care systems.
Further research is planned to build on the project.