Technology in healthcare is perhaps at its most valuable in areas where skills shortages are at their strongest. Nowhere is this perhaps more so than in social care, so it’s interesting to read the latest research briefing from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), which looks at the use of robotic technology in social care.
The report suggests that whilst the need for support in the sector is considerable, it remains far from certain whether robots can play a leading role in plugging that gap.
“Many of the robots and robotic devices developed for social care appear to still be at the conceptual or design phase,” the authors say. “A key question is whether robots and robotic technology can integrate into existing social care environments, and with current technology, or replace them altogether.”
One of the largest projects in this space is the EU backed GrowMeUp, which has seen the development of a robot, called GrowMu. The machine is developed with a number of advanced algorithms that allow it to adapt to changes, both in its environment and the person/s it’s caring for. This allows it both to develop an understanding of the routine of the individual, and how that routine can be improved upon. For instance, it might suggest new dietary changes or warn that a step might result in a fall.
“Adaptive learning and multi-objective decision-making algorithms work so the robot can learn from the user’s speech and behaviour patterns and recognise when circumstances require action,” the team explain.
Growing with the patient
For instance, the robot will be able to use facial recognition and oral dialogues to remember the needs of each person, including their schedule, and provide timely reminders when required.