By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for the ‘care bots’ Category

Robots (again) and the challenge to help the care sector

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I see robotic care development is moving up a gear with the announcement of the Social Care Robot Challenge 2017.

Billed as a “national cooperative venture”, its aim is to pool knowledge from UK experts in social care robotics from both education and industry. The goal: To advance our knowledge of how robots can be integrated into the healthcare services of the future. Hmmm . . .

Both Bristol Robotics Lab and Sheffield University are already heavily promoting the venture that will, according to the blurb, “address the predicted steeply rising costs and strain of healthcare provision and services in the UK.”

Sorry guys, I think it will take more than robotic technology to get us out of the social care mess.

The robot connection to caring is not new, but this fresh attempt at harvesting intelligence to move to the next level is another indicator that the care sector needs help. I’m not a geek, but I do embrace technology. However, I do believe not interavtive care robot can substitute human kindness . . . or a decision to release the Government purse strings.

There’s talk of “a motivation to create an architecture for social cognition in care robotics.” I think that means developing robots that store information and can apply it socially in a caring environment. If I’m wrong, will someone please tell me, please.

Robotics Week, 24-30th June 2017 will be a must for geeks and the Social Care Challenge will be a centerpiece.

Research issues to be addressed from a robot social cognition perspective could include one or more of the following:


  • Assisted mobility
  • Personal hygiene
  • Social support
  • Preventative and rehabilitation monitoring
  • Remote assistance
  • Food preparation


My mind boggles, but we all must be grateful if ultimately this technology is the lifeline the care sector so desperately requires. Can someone please tell me why I can’t get the thought of Star Wars’ R2D2 out of my head?

Sorry, I don’t wish to trivialise, but we do need a much quicker solution to the care meltdown than what I believe robotic development can deliver.

Written by debbielq

January 17, 2017 at 8:33 am

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Smart thinking, but ‘care bots’ can’t replace carers

Creating the ideal home is big business – in fact there’s a world stage out there for exhibitions that can both temp and puzzle. From the practical to the bizarre the evolution to help make us more efficient is rolling out rapidly.

In the home of tomorrow our front doors will be able to ‘talk’ to your smoke alarm, lights will flash when the fridge door is left open and, according to reports emerging from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Teddy will put your child to bed.

Other features include at smart lock that unlocks the front door when the home owner is near, televisions that show notifications and can warn when a child is using the web when they should be asleep, and a system that lets you change all the clocks in your home at the touch of a button.

The vision of the future is restrained only by our imagination.

But this model, that’s also invading the care sector, is not without some serious pitfalls, as reported in the Telegraph online by Science Editor Sarah Knapton.

Last month’s article said these so-called ‘care-bots’ are “emotionally dangerous”. The warning comes from an artificial intelligence boffin Maggie Boden, professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex.

She warned that machines would never be able to understand abstract ideas such as loyalty or hurt – essential in responding compassionately to those needing care.

“Computer companions worry me very much,” Prof Boden was reported as saying.

I understand her concerns, but one does not have to be a professor to comprehend that the elderly really do need real people to respond to their needs.

I read that last December the University of Singapore introduced “Nadine” the ‘care bot’, who, according to its manufacturers, will eventually provide childcare and offer friendship to lonely pensioners.

For those who know the care business well, loyalty from careers to their patients is something that is hugely appreciated by those receiving and those managing care. All excellent care on a personal level will have loyalty as a cornerstone.

I really don’t think ‘care bots’ can replicate that just yet, and even if they could, would I want to confide in a machine? Of course not.

Technology has its place and, fortunately I’m not one of those afraid of it. Telecare is a prime example where technology in the care sector can be helpful. It has been designed for people with social care needs and allows the remote monitoring of an individual’s condition or lifestyle. It aims to manage the risks of independent living and can include automatic movement sensors, falls sensors, and bed occupancy sensors.

But computer companions are very different. The simple act of sharing a cup of tea or listening to an elderly persons’s story can never be replicated by ‘bot’ science – well, at least not yet. Humans not only respond (we’re aware computers can do this too), but can respond in an appropriate emotional way (and it’s where, critically, the care-bots fail).

Smart technological thinking can help with being creative on stretched budgets, but even with all our faults, cannot replace that which makes us quintessentially human.

A robotic revolution to replace carers . . . Not on my watch.