Currently showing: Funding longer lives > Long-term care

14 Jun 17 07:32

"I suggest a new strategy, R2, let the wookie win." 
Star Wars: A New Hope (or simply "Star Wars" if you're as old as me). 

In this scene from 40 years ago, R2D2 is playing Chewbacca at "space chess" and the anxious droid, C3PO, tries to prevent the wookie from losing his temper. 20 years ago, IBM's Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov at non-space chess. And the advances in artificial intelligence and robotics since then are phenomenal! 

When investigating robots in eldercare at the University of Southampton's Centre for Research on Ageing, I quickly discovered that C3PO isn't necessarily what's needed. Though we may picture "humanoids" when thinking of robots, beware of this preconception. 

Robots designed to replicate human behaviour often fail. Why? Because when it comes to care, a real human touch makes all the difference. Instead, robots that are designed to either complement human care or solve some real problems will see success.

For example, people living with dementia can benefit from pet therapy. But there's a problem – a pet takes some looking after and neither the patient nor their carer would welcome the distraction of feeding and cleaning up after a pet. So how does a robot solve such problem? One answer is Paro and he's pictured with me in the photograph.

Paro's extraordinary – a robotic seal that behaves similarly to a normal pet. He reacts to light, to touch and much more, but the only maintenance he needs is the occasional recharge. Above all, Paro works. Patients are told openly that Paro isn't "real" but they adopt him as if he is. 

At Swiss Re's Next Generation Insurance Customer event, I'll be presenting with a real robotics expert from Middlesex University (Eris Chinellato) and a real robot (Pepper). Robots have come a long way in the five years since I carried out my assignment and Pepper – a companion robot – falls more into the category of complementing a human carer. Pepper's another little wonder of robotics who I hope performs well on the day! If you want to find out more about what she can do, we'll see you there. 

We're still seeking a wookie who'll join us.

You can find out more about funding longer lives on our website.

Category: Funding longer lives: Long-term care, Pension/retirement

Location: Zürich, Switzerland


Alicia Montoya - 14 Jun 2017, 8:57 p.m.

Funny, I was asking myself that a couple of days ago when I came across a chatbot designed for people suffering from depression: Woebot, an "artificially intelligent chatbot designed using cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, one of the most heavily researched clinical approaches to treating depression".

When I tested the app, I found the bot's answers to be far less clunky and artificial than you get with many chatbots... and of course, it's far cheaper than having an alpaca (which would have been my intuitive choice for anyone needing support and comfort)! :)

Urs Leimbacher - 20 Jun 2017, 9:20 a.m.

Thanks for sharing these insights, Matt. You've clearly pointed out a growth area where robots - nicely packed and furry - will surely be used on a much broader scale to help increase the overall well-being of patients afflicted by dementia.
Another area where robots (the less furry type...the ones that can count well) will be able to relieve humans is in preparing daily medication in the right dosage for each patient in a care home. This is a boring task for humans but one where no mistakes should happen. That's precisely where robots can relieve humans - and they are never bored! Staff can thus free up valuable time to spend for other tasks.

Judy Wang - 29 Jun 2017, 1:52 p.m.

@Urs: Great idea--I would say even before robots, I think AI techniques and programs will be that first step to help with medication adherence. There is a company here in Boston, PillPack, that is now using automation and image analysis to double check pharmacist sorted prescriptions and automatically timestamp all doses for the correct time of day that the pills should be taken. Really awesome stuff.

One of the other aspects in which robots will provide assistance is lifting patients in and out of hospital beds--which nurses are currently doing but it gets to be tough when you have to lift hundreds of pounds everyday!

Alicia Montoya - 1 Jul 2017, 2:22 p.m.

Oh, my. The stats are frightening: "The World Health Organization estimates that roughly 50 percent of patients in the US with chronic illnesses don’t take that medication exactly as prescribed—mistakes that can be deadly. A review in the Annals of Internal Medicine estimated the problem accounts for 125,000 deaths a year in the US."

And even scarier (and definitely worth looking at, though that's a separate conversation): "One in five Americans takes more than three medications a day."

So thanks for sharing, Judy. PillPack is indeed fabulous! I especially love the long-term view to establish how effective products are and which kind of patient is most helped.

Paritosh - 1 Jul 2017, 6:39 p.m.

Who doesn't like robots or AI... They could actually act, before a human could even think!! Supposedly...

Sadly, presently we are far away from that.... What we need actually is a transition... A transition of responsibility from human to AI and that certainly is going to take some time....

What we actually need, is to start implementing the human first to the system and then bring in the AI....

Are we short of humans? No! Are we short of AI? Yes!!

The moment we realize this fact, the humanity (enterprises) would start moving faster than one can expect...

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