London: Scientists are developing robots to help reduce anxiety among children and allow families to ‘visit’ their elderly relatives, as part of a research project to create the next generation of assistive technologies. The project, at University of Sheffield in the UK will for the first time bring together expertise in arts, humanities, engineering and robotics to create assistive technologies for people with disabilities.
The aim is to increase understanding of how disability is currently represented and the ways in which technology can enhance lives in the future, the university said in a statement.
An important focus of the research will be on animal-like companion robots that could operate to reduce anxiety in children in a hospital setting.
Researchers will also be developing telepresence robots — video screens on wheels raised to head height that can be controlled remotely using a simple smartphone app.
They allow relatives and social workers to ‘visit’ elderly people more often, even if they live in rural or distant places. The elderly patient does not need to operate the device, leaving them free to interact with their social worker or family.
Research will conduct participatory design activities with children and older adults with disabilities with the aim of co-designing and prototyping next generation assistive technologies.
“We are excited to work with researchers from the medical humanities to understand how culture influences the ways in which people relate to, and use, different kinds of robot technology in real-world contexts such as classrooms, hospital wards and people’s homes,” said Tony Prescott, from University of Sheffield in the UK.
“Our aim in this project is to work closely with people with disabilities in order to understand how assistive robots could help them and to design new kinds of assistive robot technologies that they find appealing and useable,” said Prescott.