Robotics have been around for some time now. Actually, the first robot was created by the Greek mathematician Archytas of Tarentum. It was a flying wooden dove that traveled up to 200 meters through the air by flapping its wings. However, since entering into the Technology age we are now seeing robotics that can interact with people. This is an area called human-centered robotics, which is an emerging area in the past decade.
Given these robots are human-centered, they serve as an emerging tool for social workers whose work is client-centered.
These robots can have varying degrees of autonomy, ranging from an operator making all decisions for the robot, making some of the decisions or the robot being entirely independent. Let’s meet some of these robots:
Nao was born in 2006 and is currently in version 5.0. It is a humanoid robot created by Aldebaran Robotics. ASK NAO (Autism Solution for Kids) was customized in order to support teachers with in-class tasks and help children with autism. He can walk, talk, sing, and dance. He can serve as a model for children and offers facial and vocal recognition with his two cameras and four microphones. haseducational applications inspired from various behavioral approaches and models (ABA, PECS, TEACCH, DENVER, SCERTS). Teachers can customize tasks based on each individual child’s needs. NAO also tracks data and makes it accessible to anyone that needs access for collaborative efforts around the client.
RITA is a telehealth robot that was developed by Pertexa. RITA is known for providing care to high-risk or underserved patients such as those in rural areas as well as those in prisons, on ships, and military outposts. RITA is HER compatible. She can maximize care through the use of compatible medical devices and video consultations. She can examine patients remotely for evaluation of illness or injury and determine the best care facility or transportation scenarios. RITA can also provide follow-up care remotely.
RITA also has a little brother Radekal that assists with coding and billing and is HIPAA complaint.
Keepon Pro is a social robot developed by Beatbots used to interact with children, particularly those with developmental disorders such as autism. Not to be confused with Keepon which is a robot used as a toy. Under the control of a therapist, this robust hardware/software research platform serves as a social facilitator and as a recording tool in the playroom or lab. Keepon Pro is tethered to a computer, and a researcher or therapist controls the robot during interactions with children. Cameras and a microphone convey information to the adult who then guides the robot's behaviors.
Paro was developed by Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) back in 2003 and is on its 8th edition. PARO robots aid dementia and age-related cognitive decline. It allows the benefits of animal therapy where live animals present treatment or logistical difficulties in facilities such as hospitals or extended care facilities. PARO has been found to:
· reduce patient and caregiver stress
· stimulate interaction between patients and caregivers
· have a Psychological effect on patients, improving their relaxation and motivation
· improve the socialization of patients with each other and with caregivers
Kabochan is a communication robot with audio, light and motion sensor. He can improve the cognitive skills and promote positive mental and physical health of the elderly. Kabochan has been tested in a number of assisted living facilities and proved its effectiveness in endorsing cognitive and emotional health of residents. He can interact with the seniors through its five sensors that are installed in its mouth, head, hands, feet, and main body. These sensors allow Kabochan to verbally respond to any sounds and movements. He has several exercise modes that are built in to relieve stress, fatigue, and wandering symptoms of dementia patients. Kabochan can prevent dementia by improving cognitive functions such as memory and judgment.
Robots could serve as another useful tool in the social workers toolbox. However, given the pioneering nature of robotics in social work we must pay attention to evidence based products and practices and not be swayed by shiny object syndrome. I would suggest detailed research of the robot/product and company before incorporating into your practice.