Major advances in AI mean smarter and more efficient robots. In Japan, 20 percent of the population is over the age of 65 and, according to the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there will be a shortage of 380,000 nurses by 2025.
To respond to the crisis, robots are beginning to assist older adults in nursing homes, hospitals and at home. SoftBank’s Pepper, an “emotional” robot, is one such solution. It can respond to joy, sadness, anger or surprise and it’s being used in some Belgian hospitals to interact with patients. And IBM is developing its own answer: the Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant, currently being tested in Austin, Texas at an “Aging in Place” lab.
Not all elder robots come in humanoid form, however. Robear, a nursing-care robot, gives seniors the chance to have a cuddly bear look after them. Developed by Toshiharu Mukai, a scientist at the Riken-SRK Collaboration Center for Human-Interactive Robot Research, Robear can assist with physical tasks, like helping the elderly out of a wheelchair or back into bed.