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Technology Can Be a Pet Companion

Mr Yosi Lahad, Dr Oren Fuerst, Mr Oliver Tian
30.3.2020

Mr Yosi Lahad and Dr Oren Fuerst (Co-Founders – Interactive Companion, Israel/USA) and Mr Oliver Tian, Director and Founder, Oliver Tian Associates (Singapore)

The ageing population is anticipated to double worldwide by 2050. How best to deal with it is a question facing individuals, families, health-care systems, and the nations of the world. More and older patients are faced with multi-morbidity, age-associated limitations in mobility, vision, memory, and hearing. In addition, all too frequently, social isolation, loneliness, and depression have complex health needs. The challenges highlight the global need for user-friendly alternatives to hospital and institutionalized care that can support health management. More often than not, self-care and community services have to deal with the autonomy of living alone for as long as possible. Digital health technologies can be assimilated to improve communication and collaboration, and the use of evidence-based guidelines to circumvent barriers to healthy, independent and active ageing. Today, age remains one of the greatest obstacles to technology adoption. Extending and enhancing the ability to monitor and provide prompt help and support for the independent older adult is another capability that digital health technologies bring. Advances in the integrated potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics have discovered a seamless augmentation of care and companion services for this group of elderly. However, we must first re-skill “those who have been neglected and found to be vulnerable” to adopting new technologies. Social isolation and loneliness are public health issues that have adverse effects on elder health. While existing technologies can provide access to social media, entertainment, education, and counselling for willing users, newer technologies such as Socially Assistive Robots (SAR) could help with physical tasks and provide a partner for social interaction. Early studies of SARs for elder care have found that they might improve cognitive function, companionship, lower blood pressure, and provide an improved overall sense of wellbeing. However, if these technologies are poorly integrated into systems of health and social care, technology itself could contribute to even greater isolation for older adults. As a result, it can create more harm than good. To avoid this hazard, designers must understand the complexity of ageing and incorporate knowledge of age-related changes throughout the design process. Participatory design approaches that include older adults are essential.

​Design should also focus on how to improve the quality of care and outcomes. Additionally, a rigorous prospective clinical trial assessment will be needed for all these technologies. Only then will digital health technologies help meet the needs of older people. An AI-based companion pet robot equipped with advanced technologies has been designed by an Israeli team, to monitor, interact with and assist the seniors, per respective culture and personal characteristics. This “pet companion” deals mainly with the mental and cognitive aspects of the seniors.  It shall serve the role of a close friend and also has the capabilities to connect to remote medical care facilities. Social networking tools are also incorporated. The pet-robot and platform will also be modified for people with special needs and for kids as a “study buddy”.

Mr Yosi Lahad and Dr. Oren Fuerst will be sharing their design at the upcoming AIBotics 2020 Conference.  More details can be found on the website: www.aibotics.tech

AIBotics 2020 will be held in August 2020 with a 2 Day Conference and Exhibition, plus an additional day of workshops and tutorials. The theme for 2020 is “Augmenting the Human Potential”. This understanding and implementation of AI in Robotics across the wide range of applications aim to bring together the most progressive end-users, first-class speakers, and innovative solution providers.

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