The role of robotics in care was debated at the Future of Care conference in London this week.
Dr Chris Papadopoulos of the University of Bedfordshire, a partner in the international CARESSES robotics in care project, was among the keynote speakers at the conference.
CARESSES is a Japanese Government and EU funded pilot project assessing how robotics can be used to assist the elderly in a care setting.
Addressing the negative coverage of the project from some quarters of the press, Dr Papadopoulos said: “This is about assisting and complementing care as opposed to replacing jobs.”
During his presentation, Dr Papadopoulos shared a video of an interaction between the Pepper robot, which is manufactured by SoftBank Robotics, and a resident at an Advinia care home.
The clip showed Pepper greeting the resident who then requested it to play a favourite Eva Cassidy song using its inbuilt video and audio tablet.
A follow-up panel discussion, chaired by Nadra Ahmed of the National Care Association, featuring Anchor Hanover CEO Jane Ashcroft, Martin Jones, managing director of Home Instead Senior Care, and Taffy Gatawa, chief information & compliance officer, everyLIFE Technologies, discussed the ethical issues around the use of robotics in care.
Ashcroft observed that robots could be used in roles that do not add much value to the care experience, helping free carers to provide more value-added care and upskill their roles.
Countering the argument that robotics should focus on menial tasks, Dr Papadopoulus said: “I don’t think robots should just carry out mundane tasks.
“Let’s not be frightened by this as a way forward. Let us look at what works and what is the ethical way forward.”
The debate followed a recent study by UK recruitment specialist Randstad, which found that more than 80% of people are opposed to using robots in care.
In a survey of 2,694 people, 83% of respondents said did not think there was any role for robots in care. Only 470 people (17%) were in favour of using Artificial Intelligence to help fill the skills shortage in the sector.