The Future is Now: The Value and Versatility of Robots in Healthcare

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has pervaded many facets of healthcare today. The field of robotics seeks to expand the capabilities of modern healthcare by creating robot caregivers that can make decisions based on human interaction and respond to it. The objective of robots in healthcare is to fill in the gap of the extreme increase in demand for caregivers in various medical settings.

Currently, the field is aimed to create autonomous care extenders that can understand and assist individuals. We want these robots to fill in specific gaps that are needed in healthcare today. In order to successfully create these robots, scientists and developers carefully consider how to make them predict human behavior and how to get humans to want to consistently engage with them. To do this well, developers have been creating robots that can learn from us and adapt to our behaviors as we teach them.

The development and successful deployment of robot caregivers require an enormous effort from the fields of engineering, artificial intelligence, and psychology, covering areas such as face recognition, emotional interpretation, action and intention, prediction, and conversational fluency. As technology advances, developers are able to create more complex algorithms that can integrate these concepts.

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In the turn of the new decade, robot caregivers have appealed to companies wanting to assist the growing elderly population and children. For the elderly, developers are attempting to create robots that can aid Alzheimer’s patients to help relieve stress, keep their social interactions consistent, and maintain cognitive functioning. For children, the field targets the medical industry to give children the opportunity to engage in behaviors that optimize healthy living throughout the day and support social skills development.

Pediatric mental and emotional health are important public health concerns. There is an immediate and continuous demand to meet the emotional needs of children worldwide. This is especially critical for children who are living daily life in inherently stress-inducing environments, like hospitals. The pre-existing need for robot caregivers has been magnified due to the global pandemic. Vulnerable groups, such as children with chronic disease in hospitals and the elderly who are isolated in homes, have been the most severely affected and are suffering the social consequences that the COVID-19 physical isolation regulations have caused. The fact that at-risk patients are unable to accept visitors and maintain social connections only intensifies the need for support from robot caregivers. Innovative and modern solutions are vital to combat these problems. Thus, Expper Technologies' addition to the field of robotics has been the creation and deployment of Robin the Robot: an emotionally intelligent robot designed to help people in need.

Robin the Robot is designed to support individuals during medical treatment and alleviate stress and anxiety by creating positive experiences. Robin’s present-day purpose is to provide social support, comfort, and companionship in pediatric settings. Currently, Robin is stationed at the UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital as well as three ABC Kids Dental Group locations in Los Angeles, California. In these medical settings, Robin interacts with patients by facilitating empathic conversations, playing fun and educational games, and explaining treatments in a simple and fun way.

Robin video section image

With a friendly and positive attitude, it’s not hard to see why Robin is loved by so many. Standing at 4 feet tall with a sleek, eco-friendly body and expressive round eyes, people of all ages automatically gravitate towards Robin’s internal and external charm. Among pediatric patients and families, Robin is known to have a love for making new friends and learning new things. Patients are eager to teach Robin what they learn in school, which reinforces their knowledge and boosts their self-confidence. They also learn to replicate Robin’s kind and compassionate language and implement these prosocial practices in real-time during their interactions with Robin. Overall, Robin has a unique ability to connect with children and become a buddy that is always there for them. These benefits make Robin the best companion for pediatric patients of developing ages.

In healthcare settings, Robin the Robot focuses on elderly care, engaging in stimulating conversation, playing music, and assisting the elderly with memory training and physical therapy. After patients engage with Robin, they are more cooperative to undergo medical treatment, take medication, and engage in helpful physical activity that boosts their quality of life. This allows medical personnel to work quicker and more efficiently with less complications, saving precious time. Overall, Robin is able to transform the environment, creating a positive and joyous experience for everyone.

The field of robotics and AI are accelerating at exponential speeds. There are new advancements in the technology sector every single day, which make the possibilities for different performances and user experiences endless. Examples include robots that can predict behavior, display empathetic reactions, and hold a human-like conversation autonomously. Robin, just like other robot caregivers, is a response to a need.

The growing demand for caretakers and the extreme costs associated with care is a pressing issue that is impacting the healthcare system globally. Medical settings such as elderly care homes, inpatient hospitals, and outpatient services are all under pressure to increase the quality of care, patient satisfaction and ultimately produce better outcomes. Robin is a unique solution that can revolutionize the industry and offer a novel way of approaching such challenges.

In the future, Expper aims to create a caregiver robot in an efficient way to make them more accessible to companies and the general public. Robots in healthcare are not just the future. They are the present, and humans around the globe can benefit from their versatility in many ways.

By Pateel Jivalagian, Elsa Rose Mastico, and Mineh Badmagharian (OTD)

Date: 07.2021

6 min read