Older adults are increasingly indicating they would enjoy the help of robots in the home according to a new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health recently presented at the Human Factors Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting today. In a Georgia Tech study, older adults indicated that they would generally prefer robotic help over human help for chores such as cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry and taking out the trash.
Human assistance is wanted, however, when it came to help getting dressed, eating and bathing. The older adults tended to say they would prefer human assistance over robot assistance. They also preferred human help for social activities, such as calling family and friends or entertaining guests. Human assistance robots don’t pilfer your bank account, get angry at you, or stay home with illnesses when you need them most. They can, of course, have mechanical issues from time to time, sometimes just when you need the assistance.
Identifying preferences for robotic assistance
Robots have the potential to help older adults with daily activities that can become more challenging with age. But are people willing to use and accept the new technology? A study by the Georgia Institute of Technology indicates the answer is yes, unless the tasks involve personal care or social activities.
After showing adults (ages 65 to 93 years) a video of a robot’s capabilities, researchers interviewed them about their willingness for assistance with 48 common household tasks. Participants generally preferred robotic help over human help for chores such as cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry and taking out the trash. But when it came to help getting dressed, eating and bathing, the adults tended to say they would prefer human assistance over robot assistance. They also preferred human help for social activities, such as calling family and friends or entertaining guests.
Georgia Tech’s Cory-Ann Smarr presented results this week at the Human Factors Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting in Boston. “There are many misconceptions about older adults having negative attitudes toward robots,” explained Smarr, a School of Psychology graduate teaching assistant, in the October 25, 2012 news release, Robots in the home: Will older adults roll out the welcome mat? “The people we interviewed were very enthusiastic and optimistic about robots in their daily lives. They were also very particular in their preferences, something that can assist researchers as they determine what to design and introduce in the home.”
Preferences vary depending on the task
Smarr and Psychology Professor Wendy Rogers, the principal investigator on the project, also noticed that preferences varied across tasks, such as medication. For instance, adults said they are willing to use a robot for reminders to take medicine, but they are more comfortable if a person helps them decide which medication to take.
“It seems that older people are less likely to trust a robot with decision-making tasks than with monitoring or physical assistance,” said Rogers in the news release. “Researchers should be careful not to generalize preferences when designing assistive robots.”
The older adults in the study were all healthy and independent, and nearly 75 percent said they used everyday technologies such as cell phones and appliances. Many said they don’t need immediate assistance. The research team is planning future studies for adults who currently need help with everyday tasks.
This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health under grant PO1 AG17211. The content of the research is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National lnstitutes of Health. The project is also supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) (Award Number CBET-0932592 and CNS-0958545). The content is solely the responsibility of the principal investigators and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NSF.
Robot dogs and loneliness in nursing homes
Do older women 70 tend to favor more affordable robot dogs for senior citizens? Some nursing homes report that lonely seniors prefer dogs to people.
When your own pet passes over the rainbow bridge, and you’re too frail to properly care for a real dog, can a robot dog fill the loneliness that comes when you lose your pet of many years?
Studies have shown that in the eyes of older adults, there was no statistical difference between whether the real or robotic dog did a better job easing loneliness and fostering attachments, according to the news article, Robotic Dog Makes Nursing Home Residents Less Lonely. A reprint of this St. Louis University article also appeared in the Sacramento Bee early in July, 2010.
Wouldn’t it be great if robot dogs were sent to war instead of putting real dogs in harm’s way? Check out the December 1, 2010 Sacramento Bee article, Labradors, handlers train for war in Afghanistan. According to that article, the dogs are all pros, some champion retrievers, purchased for an average of $10,000 each, and trained and retrained to do one thing: find bombs in Afghanistan.
Wouldn’t you rather see a robot dog do that job, a dog whose parts can be replaced as easily as interchangeable computer peripherals instead of real dogs, however well trained? Real dogs shouldn’t have to go to war to sniff out bombs. Robot dogs can be trained to do the sniffing, or can they?
A real dog can sniff out bedbugs or bombs. But why endanger a real dog? If scientists can create realistic robots, why not invent a robot whose sense of smell is superior to a dog’s?
When a dog is important to you, but you’re too old to bend down and give that large dog a bath, or you live too far from the veterinarian to walk and mobile vets are too expensive what do you do? Those who long for a wagging tail and a furry animal to pet may buy stuffed toy animals. But even furry toys also shed and collect dust mites. Some people are allergic to the fur on toys.
The robot dogs have no fur, but they wag their tails. Local and national media are exploring robot dogs for seniors and the medical studies with robot dogs in nursing homes. At any age, if you’re looking for a robot dog, you can follow the media reports on news about robot dogs or check out the database at the electronic pets site, electronic pets.org. See the newspaper article, Robotic Dog Makes Nursing Home Residents Less Lonely.
Where can you buy a robot dog? Sony pulled the plug on its older version of AIBO that sold from 2004-2006 for close to $1,300, but what will the new AIBO look like when it comes out in the future? Yet local and national articles keep appearing in the media about how happy a group of senior citizens at a nursing home are upon seeing and petting the robot dog.
It comes from Japan and is called AIBO. That stands for Artificial Intelligence Robot. It’s not a toy, it’s a robot dog. It’s name is similar to IBO, which in Japanese means a pal, a true companion. The robot has friendly dog emotions and dog instincts of the type you want to see. And you don’t have to clean up after the dog. You train or program the dog by talking to it.
The robot dog develops into a mature, fun-loving dog friend as time passes. And the robot dog is a friend for your life. For further information, check out the robot dog’s website, AIBO Life.org, where you can find your own relatively ‘immortal’ dog friend.
See the article, “Sony may be planning to release updated Sony AIBO Robo-dog.” Here is a detailed review of the newly designed Sony AIBO robo-dog. Sony gave the AIBO a brand new paintjob and new technological features.
The latest Sony AIBO model will be able to interface wirelessly with both your PSP and PS3. You will also notice that the AIBO has a built in headcam that allows the robotic dog to use motion sensor technology and do facial recognitions.
Sony’s AIBO will also be able to stream its point of view video over WiFi technology that connects to your computer system. For older adults who really need a robot dog when they are not able to care for a live dog, but need the companionship of a friend who doesn’t disagree and who cuddles and is relatively ageless, will older adults who need this robot dog most be able to handle the programming or training with computers? Yes.
Even if you are not online or have never worked on a computer, Sony has made it so you can also control the functions of your AIBO whenever you want. All you have to do is turn on your remote control and it will trigger technology in the robotic dog. Most older people know how to press a remote control and watch TV. If so, they can master the robot dog companion.
The dog will be able to be controlled by the remote. With this step, using a remote control, you now can control the dog’s movements. Also, you can use the robot dog as a guard dog. Just set the dog in front of your locked door for the evening.
The Sony AIBO robo-dog will “guard” your house. The dog has a setting you can put the robotic dog on. It is going to use face recognition software to know when it should alert you of a potential intruder. Burglars would probably just ignore the robotic dog. But would it make criminals think twice about coming into your house, store, or junkyard?
Before you buy a robotic dog for the senior citizen in your life, it’s not yet released by Sony. The information is being publicized about the new features on the robot dog right now to get a picture of what people are interested in as far as features they want in a robot dog.
The original AIBO didn’t sell to as many senior citizens or anyone else as Sony would have wanted. But the new version will be coming out in the near future. Adjustments are being made. Will the dog be affordable?
The original AIBO was too expensive for the average senior citizen who wants a companion dog that doesn’t get sick or need to be fed, but still acts just like a real dog. If the price is low enough, a lot of people will buy a robot dog. If you live in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets, AIBO is great. If the price comes out too high this time around, the people who need a robot dog most won’t be able to afford it.
The best bet to sell a lot of AIBO robot dogs is to aim at families that have older adults who can no longer care for a living pet, usually because they can’t bend down to feed or wash the dog or are unable to take the dog for healthcare or on long walks, even with a wheelchair. With a robot dog, it’s not alive, but it will have the emotions of a friendly dog. Keep posted on the robot dog also at the gamespot.com.
According to Wikipedia, the original designs are part of the permanent collections of MOMA and the Smithsonian Institution. The design won SONY and artist Sorayama the highest design award that may be conferred by Japan.
On January 26, 2006 Sony announced that it would discontinue AIBO and several other products as of March, 2006 in Sony’s effort to make the company more profitable. It will also stop development of the QRIO robot. AIBO will still be supported until 2013 (ERS7 model support breakdown), however, and AIBO technology will continue to be developed for use in other consumer products.  
The International AIBO Convention
The International AIBO Convention takes place every year at Sony Robotics Tower in the Shinjuku prefecture. The first convention took place in 1999, on May 15. It was then set to May 2 to May 4. The 2009 convention, being in its tenth year, set attendance records.
The convention usually features AIBO advertisements, free posters, free accessories, freeware/open-source downloads, an acoustic performance from best friends Mark Linn-Baker and Larry Sweeney, and “AIBO Shows.” At these conventions you can find out when the latest robot dog will be appearing in public.
AIBO’s personality develops by interacting with people and each AIBO grows in a different way, based on its individual experiences. AIBO has instincts to look for its toys, to satisfy curiosity, to play with its owner, to self charge when its battery is low and to wake up when its had enough sleep or been scheduled to do so.
If only the new model would be covered more in the media. Once in a while, you see in newspapers a large photo of a group of seniors in a nursing home surrounding the robot dog. But what readers would like to see is when the latest model will be coming out and how much will it cost.
Why is the cost double that of a live dog? As far as media and culture, basically, you have robot companions in science fiction since the days of “Twilight Zone.” In reality, the people needing a robot companion such as a dog are those who usually find themselves invisible in society, older people with little energy who enjoy petting therapy dogs.
Just like real dogs, robot dogs provide pet therapy. And people who usually say they are afraid of aggressive dogs or constant barking can enjoy the fair weather side of dog emotions without the veterinary and food costs over a lifetime.
The secret life of robot dogs is that they don’t grow old and go away. They just interchange parts. That’s what’s covered in the media, that love can exist between a robot animal and a human, basically, because there’s no separation anxiety. If you need a robot dog now for kids between the ages of 4 and 8 or so, Amazon.com sells online Wrex the Robotic Dog. It’s not the same as the advanced version for adults of AIBO, but kids like it.
Robotic animals are powerful prescriptions for the lonely older adult. In one St Louis, MO study, to test whether residents connected better with Sparky or Aibo, researchers divided a total of 38 nursing home residents into three groups. All were asked questions to assess their level of loneliness. See the articles based on the studies, Lonely seniors prefer dogs to people, and Dogs help canine-loving nursing home residents feel less lonely.
One group saw Sparky once a week for 30 minutes, another group had similar visits with Aibo, and a control group saw neither furry nor mechanical critter, according to the article, Robotic Dog Makes Nursing Home Residents Less Lonely. During visits in the St. Louis study, researchers brought real dog, Sparky or robot dog, Aibo into a resident’s room and placed the pet companion near the resident. Both pets interacted with residents — wagging their tails and responding to the people they visited.
After seven weeks, all residents were asked questions about how lonely they felt and how attached they were to Sparky or Aibo. The residents who received visits from real and artificial pooches felt less lonely and more attached to their canine attention-givers than those who got visits from neither.
There was no statistical difference between whether the real or robotic dog did a better job easing loneliness and fostering attachments. So, for your own health benefits, ask whether you need a robot dog, and choose one that works just like a real dog as far as emotions and trainable instincts. The only pleasure missing would be watching the dog wolf down favorite foods.
For feeding time, you’ll need a live dog. One advantage of robot dogs is they don’t eat or eliminate. Someday robot dogs will be alive, and that’s why science fiction usually becomes techno-fact eventually. It’s media creating culture, science fiction creating reality in due time. Whenever a person is lonely and needs a dog companion, now there’s a choice: living or robotic dogs. It’s all in the dog’s emotions.