"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