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As Aging Population Grows, So Do Robotic Health Aides


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Naira Hovakimyan of the University of Illinois with a small drone that may eventually be able to carry out household tasks, like retrieving a bottle of medicine, for older adults.

Doctors and roboticists anticipate deployment in the next few years of innovations in technologies to help aging adults stay independent longer.

Credit: Daniel Acker/The New York Times

Roboticists and doctors anticipate the coming years will see the deployment of innovations in computerized, robotic, and Internet-connected technologies to help aging adults stay independent longer.

For example, the U.S. National Science Foundation is funding work by University of Illinois roboticist Naira Hovakimyan to develop drones capable of performing simple household chores as assistive devices for seniors.

Wearable devices, smart walkers, room and home sensors, and virtual and robotic companions are some of the advances derived from robotics and artificial intelligence expected to become commercially available in the next decade.

Another example from former Microsoft executive Tandy Trower is a rolling robot designed to monitor its human companion's health and assist with tasks such as keeping track of medication.

Japan and Europe appear to be ahead of the U.S. in their development of technological aides for an expanding senior populace, partly because their governments are "more attuned to the potential of technology" for this demographic, says Oregon Health & Science University's Jeffrey A. Kaye. For example, Intel and China are working on a project to map behavior patterns for caregivers using machine-learning methods.

Another key issue is whether such assistive technologies can help prevent or retard dementia and other physical and cognitive declines associated with aging.

From The New York Times
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