Robot research to reduce social isolation of elderly

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Dr Kerr, right, USC academic Dr Jacqueline Blake, left, and former USC academic Professor Michael Clements with a telepresence robot

USC is one of two Australian universities involved in global research into the use of Giraff and Double robots to improve the mental and physical health of older people who want to stay living in their own homes.

The telepresence robots stand as tall as a person and can be moved around rooms by a remote user, whose face and voice emit from its head-height screen. They can be controlled by family members or carers via the internet.

USC Associate Professor of Information Systems Don Kerr said initial testing on the Sunshine Coast indicated the devices could increase feelings of connectedness and reduce loneliness in older people while also addressing safety concerns.

“For example, an older person living alone could use the robot to call a loved one off-site and talk to them face-to-face about a trip risk in the home,” said Dr Kerr, who specialises in researching assistive technologies for in-home aged care.

“The loved one can manoeuvre the robot to the area and view the problem in real time.

“As these technologies continue advancing, the potential benefits are increasing for both the older person and those who care about them.”

Dr Kerr and USC Lecturer in Information Communication Technology Dr Jacqueline Blake are working with the University of New South Wales on the Australian element of the project led by Professor Pradeep Kumar Ray of Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

Professor Ray will visit USC on Monday 25 February to discuss the project with Dr Kerr and acknowledge USC’s donation of a telepresence robot to collaborator Dhaka University in Bangladesh.

“USC is keen to build goodwill and assist other participant countries to improve aged care, and their researchers are keen to work with us in Australia,” Dr Kerr said.


Modern Family telepresence robot

 
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