Take a few minutes to read a May 2014 Chicago Tribune article, An Army of Robots May Soon be Deployed to Care for the Elderly. This piece, written by Reuters columnist Mark Miller, explores how robots may be able to perform certain tasks to support elders who can’t aways do those tasks for themselves. Innovating with robots is a much-discussed idea in the technology and caregiving communities because so many boomers are aging into their senior and eventually elder years when they will require extra support.
How much of a role will robots play? The May 2014 Tribune article posits that they may play a significant one, if only because the need for caregiving jobs will rise steeply while the people to fill those jobs will rise negligibly. Author Mark Miller also quotes Cynthia Breaseal, who heads the Personal Robots Group at the MIT media lab, pointing out that many people appear to form emotional attachments with social robots. To see some of the other robots that the group is developing, check out the the MIT lab by clicking on the image above.
Several years ago, in May 2011, I wrote a post, Can Cuddly Robots Help People With Dementia, highlighting several other articles on robots that have human characteristics and emotional gestures. In her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other MIT Professor Sherry Turkle devotes a chapter to examining the pros, cons, and ethical considerations of using these robots as caretakers. She describes how Paro, one of the robots mentioned in the Tribune article, offers individuals a type of social companionship. You can learn even more about Paro by reading the 2010 New York Times article, A Soft Spot for Circuitry.
Turkle talks about what she describes as an illusion of togetherness that technology appears to offer us in a February 2013 interview on the TED Radio Hour with National Public Radio host, Guy Raz.
If they are warm, fuzzy, and feel almost alive, are robots part of an answer to the caregiving needs in our society? For children? For people in the hospital? For elders?
Would you give your elder parent a robot if one were available?