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Robotics could ease care burden of ageing UK population

Robotics could help an ageing UK population cope with the demands of caring for the elderly, Kevin Doughty, deputy director of the Centre for Usable Home Technology at the University of York, told a recent meeting of the BCS Northern Group.

Robotics could help an ageing UK population cope with the demands of caring for the elderly, Kevin Doughty, deputy director of the Centre for Usable Home Technology at the University of York, told a recent meeting of the BCS Northern Group.

"Currently, we are relying on staff from overseas to cope with the increasing number of people in care homes in the UK. This is a situation we will not be able to depend on for long," Doughty said.

He said that sustainability could lie in telecare. Telecare is the combination of communications and sensing technologies that allows a user to manually or automatically send a signal to a remote service centre, which can then respond.

Related devices range from those covering essential functions, such as compensating for sensory impairment, to devices providing secondary needs such as entertainment and advice.

Doughty said that the UK could look to Japan to see the potential. He pointed to robots developed in Japan that can dispense medicines, walk dogs and carry people.

But he said the technology need not be this advanced to make a difference. Assistive technology could control environments, detect dangerous situations, provide automatic alerts and enable intervention to protect vulnerable people.

Telecare systems could also help people interact with others from their home, said Doughty. An example would be a telepresence system where users could visit virtual shops, communicate with friends or go to church.

It could also lead to a care approach that requires fewer care workers per patient.

Doughty speculated that another benefit would be that fewer hospital beds would be taken up and residential homes would only be used only for those who really needed them.

Report from the BCS website >>

Video: Boston Dynamics' big dog >>

Video: development of a robot that carries people >>

Robotics products in Japan >>

Comment on this article: computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk


This was first published in May 2007

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