UK, robots, social care, Pepper

UK researchers trial robots to ease social care burden

Story by AFP

Pepper’s skill set includes making phone calls, identifying missing items in the kitchen and occasional aerobics instruction.

Now, after a surge in loneliness among vulnerable groups during the coronavirus pandemic, this robot’s potential as a companion have earned her a role in a Scottish university’s assisted living experiment with artificial intelligence.

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have programmed robots, including Pepper — who was launched as the world’s first humanoid in Japan in 2014 — to perform tasks normally carried out by care workers.

“We are specifically interested in understanding the needs of the most vulnerable at this time and what technology could be used to make their lives better,” Mauro Dragone, the project’s lead scientist, told AFP.

“Successful innovation in the field is crucial to alleviate the strain on health and social care services.”

The experiment, named Ambient Assisted Living, will initially focus on finding solutions for priority groups, whose vulnerabilities have been compounded by social isolation measures required during the pandemic.

For the research, Pepper and other robots have been put to work in a university laboratory configured to resemble a standard apartment, with a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room.

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