Laura Sharman 31 January 2017

Are robots the key to solving social care crisis?

A new wave of culturally-aware robots could revolutionise care for elderly, under a new study launched by two universities.

Middlesex University and the University of Bedfordshire will collaborate on a €2.5m international three-year research project to help develop the world’s first robots able to respond to the needs and preferences of elderly clients.

Irena Papadopoulos, professor of transcultural health and nursing at Middlesex University, said: ‘Assistive, intelligent robots for older people could relieve pressures in hospital and care homes as well as improving care delivery at home and promoting independent living for the elderly.

‘In order for robots to be more acceptable to older people it is essential that they can be programmed to adapt to diverse backgrounds and this is where my expertise in transcultural nursing comes in. Care robots that are culturally-aware are likely to meet with greater acceptance from both the older people and their carers.’

The project will expand on the capabilities of the Pepper robot, which was designed with the ability to read emotions.

Dr Chris Papadopoulos, a principal lecturer in public health from the University of Bedfordshire, explained: ‘The project is truly ground-breaking. Building culturally aware Pepper robots that can autonomously reconfigure their interactions to match the culture, customs and etiquette of the person they’re caring for, means that they are more likely to be accepted by elderly clients.’

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