AgeLab convenes roundtable on future of robotics & eldercare contributing to NIST National Needs white paper
February 27, 2009
Massachuesetts Institute of Technology
AgeLab convened a roundtable – Caring Robots: Where High-Tech Meets High Touch – examining the opportunity and challenges associated with robotic systems in the home and long-term care.
The roundtable discussion began with a presentation by Dr. Takanori Shibata, Senior Research Scientist, Intelligent Systems Research Institute, Japan Ministry of International Trade & Industry. Dr. Shibata, a former robotics researcher at MIT, demonstrated his therapeutic robot seal Paro, named by Guinness World Records as the “World’s Most Therapeutic Robot.”
Following Dr. Shibata, AgeLab facilitated a roundtable discussion on the development and application of robotic systems to support the independence, health and care of older people. Discussants included MIT and Harvard Medical School researchers, clinicians, industry and operators of long-term care facilities.
The lively discussion identified technical considerations in the design of robotic systems in both the home and skilled nursing facilities. Related issues of privacy, user acceptance, ethical issues of ‘substituting human care and relationships with robotic care and touch,’ R&D policy to support the development and deployment of robotic systems, and evolving business models that may propel the commercial viability of robotics in an aging marketplace were identified as topics for future research, policymaking and business innovation.
Joined by students, ESD and faculty from across MIT, as well as industry stakeholders, the roundtable discussants included:
• Bryan Adams, iRobot Corporation
• Joe Coughlin, MIT AgeLab
• Don Fredette, The Boston Home
• Katherine Hesse, Harvard Medical School, MGH Senior Health
• Alex (Sandy) Pentland, MIT Media Lab
• Nick Roy, MIT Computer Science Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)
• Sherry Turkle, MIT Science, Technology & Society
The roundtable resulted in the collaboration and submission of a Critical National Need Idea white paper to the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST. The paper Extending Independence: The Case for Federal Support for Robotic Caregiving Technology was organized and produced by iRobot’s Bryan Adams with contributions from the AgeLab, CSAIL, Massachusetts General Hospital and others in the aging an robotics community across the country. The paper highlights national R&D needs as well as projects that show promise to improve the quality of life of older adults.
AgeLab, CSAIL and The Boston Home currently collaborate on the development of a robotic wheelchair for use in long-term care settings. In addition, AgeLab researchers will be working with Paro in the coming year to better understand how therapeutic robots may assist formal and family caregivers.