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Social Robots in Healthcare: Pioneering Trials

In a groundbreaking trial, AI Social robots are proving to be a potential solution to alleviate caregiver exhaustion by efficiently answering patients questions and carrying out simple tasks. After a successful hospital trial, these androids demonstrated their capabilities, including answering questions about doctor availability and engaging in general conversations with patients. The UK’s National Robortarium, based at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, played a pivotal role in the EU-funded Socially Assistive Robots in Gerontological Healthcare project, with promising results.


The trial, conducted with elderly patients in a Paris hospital, aimed to assess whether these robots could provide valuable assistance, alleviate fears, and lighten the workload on nursing staff. The androids showcased their ability to engage in conversations, offering quizzes, puzzles, and calming breathing exercises. Importantly, they demonstrated the capability to monitor multiple conversations simultaneously, enhancing their potential to multitask in a healthcare setting.


Scientists believe that these “social robots” could play a crucial role in increasing productivity, particularly in handling simple but repetitive tasks in healthcare settings. The robots showcased proficiency in handling routine tasks such as providing directions, general information, and answering recurring questions about wait times and opening hours. Additionally, they showed promise in addressing patient anxiety and providing entertainment through calming exercises and games.


Professor Oliver Lemon, co-director of the National Robotarium, hailed the trial’s results as a “significant milestone” in integrating social robots into hospital environments. He expressed optimism about the prospect of these robots working seamlessly with hospital staff to enhance the overall patient experience. The potential of these robots to become an essential part of patient care in hospitals was acknowledged by Professor Anne-Sophie Rigaud, head of department at Assistance Publique Hopitaux de Paris.


The successful trials highlight the transformative potential of assistive robots in healthcare. Malcolm Offord, UK Government Secretary for Scotland, emphasized the positive impact of this advanced technology in providing vital support to healthcare workers, improving patient care, and preventing the spread of infection and disease. The trials mark a significant step toward realizing the potential of AI robots in revolutionizing patient care and addressing the challenges faced by caregivers in healthcare settings.


The National Robotarium is part of the Data-Driven Innovation initiative, supported by £21 million from the UK Government and £1.4 million from the Scottish Government. The initiative aims to turn Edinburgh into the data capital of Europe and is part of the wider £1.5 billion Edinburgh and South-East Scotland City Region Deal.



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