“Robots, animals and health care. No humans?” – Gido Broers
This morning I heard on the news that a hospital in a city in the Netherlands started an experiment with healthcare-robots that asks the patient questions to get an indication of the illness of the patient. It wasn’t clear how the robot exactly functions, but it seemed as if the robot only interacts with the patient on a linguistic level. In their lecture, Roos van Berkel and Emilia Barakova also addressed the topic of healthcare and robots, but they focused more on the movement between humans and robots. They gave various examples of how robots could function therapeutically for people suffering from mental illness. For instance, interaction between robots and elderly people with dementia, as is analyzed in the article “Use of social commitment robots in the care of elderly people with dementia: A literature review” (2012). In this article, Elaine Mordoch et al. show that:
Social commitment robots are potentially useful as a therapeutic intervention for people with dementia. Research into all new innovative efforts generally builds slowly and develops with subsequent findings and research questions. There is beginning evidence that therapeutic robotics are useful in engaging people to interact with each other, producing a calming effect, and providing companionship, motivation and enjoyment. (Mordoch et al., 18)
I find it interesting that the robots that are being used in these human-robot interactions as described in this article are animals; a seal named Paro, a robotic dog named AIBO and a robotic cat named NeCoRo. During their lecture, Van Berkel and Barakova showed a robot-dinosaur that was also used in experiments with elderly people. Why don’t those therapeutic robots look like humans?
Back to the news of the nurse-robot in the hospital. In my opinion, this nurse-robot is quite basic. It asks questions, gets answers and saves them. Wouldn’t it be great if this robot could do more than this? I had to think about the connection between movement and emotion/cognition as mentioned by Van Berkel and Barakova. They showed several examples of research in which they investigated how movement changes in different emotional states. What would happen if this nurse-robot could also analyze the movement of the patient in order to get an idea of the mental and physical state of this patient? Could that robot then replace a human? I do believe that robots in healthcare institutions could be helpful in a way. However, it seems like there are some major steps to be taken before a robot can be a proper replacement for a human nurse. But do we want a robot standing next to our bed?
- Mordoch, Elaine, Angela Osterreicher, Lorna Guse, Kerstin Roger, Genevieve Thompson. “Use of social commitment robots in the care of elderly people with dementia: a literary review”. Maturitas 74 (2013): 14-20.