Social robots helping people

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In 2019, the World Economic Forum carried out a research, asking the leading tech experts of the world about innovation. They had to define the top 10 technical achievements of the year. The social robots reached the 2nd place. What an honor!

social robot

But why is our company dealing with this issue? Because the Pepper robot, we distribute and develop, is also a social robot.

Social robots are especifically designed to interact with humans according to a socially, culturally acceptable system of norms. This relationship can mean entertainment, education and even therapy.

The human-robot relationship concerns many people around the world, scientists working not only in robotics but also in other fields.

In this blog, we present projects that focus on the the use of social robots.

Let’s look first at the CARESSES project, which is also tied to the Pepper robot.

Social robots and the CARESSES project

The CARESSES is a European-Japanese cooperation initiated by the Council of Europe. Universities and robotics companies are also involved. Softbank Robotics, the manufacturer of Pepper robots, is also a member.

The logo of CARESSES. Source: developer.softbankrobotics.com

The goal is to develop social robots that are able to care for elderly. All this, in a way that the robots behave according to the culture of the person, being cared for.

There is a great need for this job. Let’s have a look at the following graph of the WHO:

Populations are getting older. WHO
Source: World Health Organization

It shows how the proportion of people over 60 will increase in the coming decades.

There are aging societies not only in Hungary but also in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, in many cases it can be a problem to care for and entertain the elderly people. These robots can provide a solution to this.

You have to think about not just the fact that the robot takes full care of your elderly parents and grandparents. It is already a great help that lonely people can find a conversation partner, a company. The robot simply keep them busy.

Pepper as a social robot

Source: caresses.org

Pepper robot is also part of the CARESSES research. It is able to recognize certain human emotions, is good company, entertains the elderly. The tablet on its chest can show films and pictures.

In the film Hi, A.I. Pepper robot got exactly this kind of role. It becomes a somewhat whimsical robot companion of an old granny. The film deals specifically with how much will cobots change the everyday life. (By the way, we also appeared with Pepper at the premiere of the film in Budapest. It was the surprise guest.)

Pepper’s big advantage is the human-robot interaction based on voice recognition and speech synthesis. This means that it can talk, thanks to the developments of our company, even in Hungarian.

Its human-like shape is friendly and pleasing. It can also gesticulate, and thanks to the face recognition it can keep eye contact.

These qualities make Pepper amazingly human, although it still remains a robot throughout.

Robots like Pepper are also successful in the healthcare.

Social robots may help people with mental illness

Researches show that social robots also have great potential in healthcare. Experts at the University of Queensland and the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision are examining the impact of the machines on patients with mental illness.

The leader of the research, dr. Nicole Robinson says that personal, human treatment can have negative effects, such as prejudice or stigmatization. However, we cannot talk about this during a robot therapy.

The use of robots is not for triggering doctors. They will make medical care more efficient. And in the long run a cost reduction is also expected.

As in many other cases, simpler, repetitive and time-consuming tasks can be automated. In addition to using the robot, healthcare workers will have more time to perform more important tasks, that require creativity.

Health professionals and therapists are also involved in the development. In the next 1-2 years, significant progress is expected in this area.

Specialists use humanoid robots in this case. However, there is also a research with non-humanoid robots.

Hungarian research in the field of etorobotics

Etorobotics research at the Department of Ethology Department of Eötvös Loránd University rejects the humanoid shape and human behavior of robots.

The concept of etorobotics was defined in 2010 by Ádám Miklósi, head of the Ethology Department at MTA and ELTE. Ethorobotics examines how robots and their softwares can be developed along ethological principles.

Researchers use the analogy of a dog. They believe that a robot doesn’t necessarily have to be human-like to be accepted as a companion. Moreover, we are much more attached to them when they behave like pets. However, excessive humanity can be scary. For Pepper, this is not the case, as it looks completely robot. On the other hand, when a robot wants to be very human-like, it is covered with a leathery substance, capable of mimicry, it already has a bizarre effect on humans.

So what qualities should it have? Well, that’s exactly what they’re looking the answer for. We also met the researchers of ELTE several times, at Pepper events and at the meetups of the Hungarian Robot Builders Association.

For example, the robot presented there was disk-shaped, like a robot vacuum cleaner. However, researchers put a “tail” on it. Tail wagging can probably be an important element, allowing the robot to express “joy” when, for example, its owner enters the door. But they didn’t build a robot dog, only a robot that performs specific behavior of a dog.

In this blog,

we presented the CARESSES project, in which Pepper Robot is also taking part, an Australian study of robot therapists, in which Pepper is also involved. We wrote about an exciting Hungarian research, that would design social robots and their softwares according to a completely different concept.

Soon, we defintely will have to look at robots differently. They can humanoids or disk-shaped, they will be sooner or later loyal companions of the humans.

References: Innovation Origins; Science Direct; Inside Digital Health; HVG Tech rovat; Qubit; Magyar Tudomány

Are you interested in robotics? Would you like to start a joint robotics project? Then contact us!