As you senior caregiver readers know, I’ve embarked on a mission to bring some technology into my elderly mother’s home so she can live independently longer, the way she wants to live. I made a list of her needs, the most important of which are keeping safe, connected, and engaged.
My mother is not alone in her needs. The 80+ age group is the fastest-growing segment of the world’s population. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be 392 million persons over the age of 80, more than three times the present. At the same time, there will be fewer caregivers for the elderly. Smaller and more geographically disparate families mean fewer family caregivers. We are already experiencing a shortage of trained certified nurse assistants and home care aides. And, of course, ever-increasing senior care costs, whether in the home or in an institutional setting, means the entire system of elderly care needs to be rethought.
Technological advancements are growing exponentially, just as is our elder population. It makes sense, then, that someone utilize the advances in technology to address the true needs of people. The Jetsons’ Rosie, Luke Skywalker’s C3PO, fiction is rife with examples of robot family helpers. Beyond the physical assistance these robots provided, they were also companions and assistants. Those imaginings are now becoming reality.
Jibo, the “world’s first family robot”, is the brainchild of MIT professor and social robotics pioneer Dr. Cynthia Breazeal. Dr. Breazeal saw the necessity for technology that supports the needs of the human being.
“I do this because I want to empower people to stay healthier, to learn better, to age with dignity and independence (my emphasis)”, Dr. Breazeal writes on the Jibo blog. “... to support more empathic and emotionally engaging telecommunication with those you love, to delight and surprise & entertain so that people laugh and experience joy and wonderment more often, and to make our lives just a bit easier with a touch of technological magic.”
For seniors, that means an “attentive companion that can help you live with greater independence and stay connected to those you love.”
Here’s what Jibo can do (from the Jibo website):
Two hi-res cameras recognize and track faces, capture photos, and enable immersive video calling.
360° microphones and natural language processing let you talk to Jibo from anywhere in the room.
Hands-free reminders and messages, so you'll never forget and can always be in touch.
Artificial Intelligence algorithms learn your preferences to adapt and fit into your life.
Like a personal assistant, Jibo proactively helps you, to make everyday tasks simpler and easier.
Communicates and expresses using natural social and emotive cues so you understand each other better.
Here's Jibo in action:
The Indiegogo campaign to crowdsource funding for Jibo started on July 16 and ended on September 14, 2014 and raised $2,289,506, and astonishing 2,290% of its $100,000 goal. Those numbers make it the most successful technology campaign on Indiegogo to date.
Over 4,800 Jibos were pre-ordered at $499, 28% of which are Developer Editions and upgrades (new application development is ongoing.) 71 Jibos will be donated to Boston Children's Hospital.
What do you think about Jibo and the future of carebots? Is this something you would welcome into your home? Personally, I’d love to see it in action. And if the response on Indiegogo is any indication, Siri’s in for some stiff competition.
In development for a few years, a new robotic caregiver is now being tested in senior's homes. The CareBot, developed by GeckoSystems, is now doing caregiver duties through in-home trials. The robot, which can be programmed to speak in various tones and to speak certain words in response to questions, can assist with daily tasks and give reminders to a senior with memory loss.
Manufactured out of steel, aluminum and plastic, the CareBot moves around on two wheels. The onboard computers, combined with lots of software allow CareBot to be remotely accessed for video and audio monitoring.
The target market for the CareBot is seniors over age 65, who live alone in large metropolitan areas with braodband internet service available. The company likens the CareBot to another home appliance, such as the dishwasher, as it can do tasks to help caregivers and seniors save time.
What tasks can the CareBot do?
- Tells Jokes
- Announce Medication Reminders
- Play Songs
- Alert When Visitors Arrive at Door
- Give Reminders ("Your daughter will be here at 10 a.m.")
- Give Notifications to other Caregivers (if a fall occurs)
- Visit Family Virtually through Video System
Cost? The company says the financial payback for seniros will take place in a year - so the cost is more than a few laptop computers. The CareBot is not yet ready for market and an exact price is not available. The company has spent $6 million on development and expects to offer the CareBot through computer retailers in 4 to 6 months.
While advances in technology are assisting seniors to live longer, the CareBot brings a technology solution to caregiving, to assist seniors to live at home longer. However, no computer will ever be able to replace the human heart when it comes to caregiving.
But if it can fold clothes, I'll take one!