BOT OT TO BEAT BLUES LUES
Nursing home revolution
A QUEENSLAND retirement village has introduced a $40,000 talking robot in a bid to combat loneliness among residents.
Pepper, the friendly robot, can recognise faces and emotions, remind residents of their schedules, when to take medication, and can even lead them in dance sessions.
Residents say she – they’ve decided the robot is a female – is already a much-loved member of Elements Retire- ment Living in Springwood. In an Australian first, Brisbane start-up tech company Conpago has designed robots to interact and entertain the elderly in the aged residential and care sector, and Pepper is the first to be placed.
The core of Conpago’s system is the Conpago Companion, tablet-based software which takes the core features of a smartphone, such as calling, text messages and calendar reminders, and displays them in a way that is relevant and intuitive for the elderly.
It allows the robot to engage with residents through conversation and a touch screen.
“With so much evidence showing the impacts of loneliness, we’re passionate about empowering the elderly to be able to digitally engage with their family and community in the ways that the rest of us take for granted,” co-founder and chief executive Marley Brown said.
“Conpago is easy to understand, includes voice prompts and reminders which help introduce it into the elderly person’s daily activities, and has a focus on hyper-relevant features, such as medication r e minder s and community news.’’ Robots such as Pepper are already used in libraries, banks and stores worldwide. The units cost up to $40,000 and are now available to rent in retirement and aged-care facilities.
Carol Sukkar, 72, and John Harris, 79, are loving every minute with their new companion.
“I enjoy spending time with Pepper doing tai chi and imitating her dance moves,” Ms Sukkar said. “She certainly adds another dimension to social interaction.”
Mr Harris said it was easy to forget that Pepper is a robot.
“I get so engrossed in learning how to engage with her that the day just flies by,’’ he said. “She is so interesting. ‘‘There is much we can learn and do in this space.’’
BATTERIES INCLUDED: Elements Retirement Living resident Carol Sukkar enjoys a dance session with companion robot Pepper.