Robots in the home

Robots in the home

Are we running before we can walk?

Toyota recently unveiled its latest venture into the world of robotics, a Human Support Robot (HSR) that picks up after people and helps to care for the sick. This project, among others, has shown that robots are no longer a thing of the future; Amazon is currently testing drones that will be used to deliver medicine and parcels, and Google tested its driverless cars in Milton Keynes earlier this year.

There can be no doubt that technology brings us some of the best inventions, all with the intention of making our lives better and easier, however how can we realistically expect those who have never used a computer or the internet to have a robot in their home?

Toyota’s HSR is designed to support those with limited mobility. It can pick up and carry objects for the individual and has a computer panel attached to its head for surfing the internet. They advertise the robot as being “relatively easily” controlled via a tablet device. This however, presumes that those intending to use the robot will have the necessary skills to make use of it, which isn’t the case.

The Office of National Statistics recently found that there are 6.4 million people in the UK who have never used the internet, of which 5.6 million are aged over 55. These figures suggest that older people are being left behind in this digital age, suggesting that a robot created to support those in need could be futile.

Highly innovative

This isn’t to say that all the various gadgets and advancements in technology are impractical, some are highly innovative and genuinely do make a difference in the lives of older adults.

The ‘Lively’ system uses passive activity sensors attached to movable objects around the home, like medicines, the refrigerator and the front door to monitor for movement, alerting relatives to anything unusual.

So if someone suffers a fall their relatives would be alerted to the fact that there has been no movement within the house.

The difference between systems like this and HSR however, is that the individual in question doesn’t have to directly interact with the technology, it’s all installed and monitored by others.

The reality of the situation is that there are still many people who lack essential digital skills. Those who haven’t grown up with iPads and iPhones may not only struggle to use them, but may also fear doing the wrong thing. The younger generation find new technology exciting; they don’t read a step by step guide and will adopt a trial and error process.

However, not everyone feels comfortable with this; people are well aware of how expensive modern technology can be and if it’s not something they fully understand how to use, in an effort to avoid the risk of damaging it, many would rather leave it alone.

Those aged over 55 who feel a lack of confidence in using technology need proper guidance on how to use the internet before they are thrown in at the deep end. There are various training programmes already available, but the majority are taught via an online platform which immediately excludes those without a basic knowledge of how to use the internet.

Tailored training

Training needs to be designed to suit each individual’s learning style, within a friendly environment, where they are provided with continued wrap-around support.

Too often programs provide the right initial approach for the learner but then leave them to manage the rest of the training themselves.

A suitable environment where those unfamiliar with technology feel supported is the only way to ensure that they have the basic skills needed to deal with the increasing advancements in technology.

Perhaps with this in place there is the possibility that further down the line these individuals will feel confident using technology to support them at home. We need to ensure we help people to walk before we insist they run.

Christine Maclean is MD of integrated training company Attigo –

Would you consider having a robot in your home to assist you? We’d be really interested to hear your views.