10 Jan Meet Zora – The Assistive Care Robot
Have you ever seen the film I Robot? Will Smith stars in this action-packed thriller in which a robot with artificial intelligence (AI) kills its creator and leads a robot revolt to enslave the human race.
While we know this is a farfetched descent into fantasy, underlying this theme is the reality that robots are going to play an increasing role in our lives. Many are being programmed to work alongside humans in an assistive capacity, so we should look with anticipation as life becomes easier and more efficient through robotics.
In particular, Zora, an assistive care robot, is being used in senior living facilities. Introduced to the United States in 2015 by Anne Agostino, a French geriatric care provider, this technology has made huge strides in older adult assistive care. According to Libin and Libin (2004), [assistive] robots provide cognitive therapy, unlike animals; they have no side effects, like medication; and can be used for social, educational, rehabilitative, therapeutic, and entertaining purposes.
In France, Agostino found that robots helped older adults with chronic pain or dementia to communicate and exercise. She said, “When you want to communicate with residents who are sick in bed and do not want to talk, you can use the robot because they focus on it. For about 20 to 30 minutes, they will focus on it and forget their pain.”
Agostino’s experiences are confirmed by other researchers. Findings from Martin et al. (2013) show that 80% of older adults enjoy interactions with robots like Zora. Agostino said, “They like to talk to Zora like it is a child.” And why not? Zora can do things like dance, demonstrate exercises, sing, and tell stories. Zora has a touch panel, a built-in camera and microphone, and can be programmed to be autonomous. More capable robots can also run, climb stairs, push carts, pick up patients, and serve beverages.
As it relates to dementia, Agostino shared the story of an Alzheimer’s resident who would rarely communicate. “She did not react at all during the activities, so I put Zora in front of her for five minutes, so as not to scare her, but to see the reaction. It worked. She began to light up, participate, and focus on mimicking the robot. People with Alzheimer’s do not remember, but each day when you bring Zora they will be excited. With Zora, they can focus and participate.”
Not surprisingly, the benefits of robot technology in older adult assistive care are numerous. Interactions with assistive robots serve as a powerful panacea. Here are just a few therapeutic outcomes:
- Lower stress
- Stronger immune system response
- Decreased loneliness
- Improved mood
- Increased communication
- Improved memory
- Reduced agitation
- Diminished severity of dementia
Robots, like Zora, are set to hit the senior care market hard and wide. As a great assistant to existing staff, Zora will give older adults the extra encouragement they need to stay healthy and strong.
Libin, E.V and A.V. Libin. (2004) “Person-robot interactios from the robopsychologists’ point of view: the robotic psychology and robotherapy approach.” IEEE Xplore.
Martin, Francisco; Aguero, Carlow; Canas, Jose. (2013) “Robotherapy with Dementia Patients.” International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.5772/54765