Can New Home Robots Cure Loneliness?
By: Grace Liu
In the home of Ken and Audrey Mattlin, 84 and 86, in Bakersfield, California, there are many robots and devices that can chat, play music, and entertain people. The robots can help some elderly people deal with isolation by chatting with them.
The robots’ names are ElliQ, Astro, and Jibo. ElliQ looks like a tableside lamp, Astro looks like a vacuum cleaner with a tablet as a face, and Jibo, is probably the most life-like of the three.
ElliQ mainly chats with Audrey. Astro can turn into a DJ that plays music, turn on the television, and can act as a security guard, as he has a built-in camera. Jibo can bust out dance moves. “He can twerk,” said Ken, and Jibo promptly gyrated on its axis.
Recently, robots and other technology, such as Google Home or Alexa, have been used by older adults to deal with loneliness. In California nursing homes, robotic pets have also become popular.
“A growing body of research on companion robots suggests they can reduce stress and loneliness and can help older people remain healthy and active in their homes,” Duke Today reported this month after a study conducted partly by Duke University professor, Murali Doraiswamy.
Researchers say, however, that having a real friend is better than a robot. “You don’t want to spend Christmas Eve with a robot,” said Maria Henke, senior associate dean of the USC School of Gerontology.
USC professor, Maja Mataric, has been developing robots that can help children with autism and older adults with dementia. “Maybe you’re slurring your words or not using as big a vocabulary as you were a month ago, so those are early signs of dementia,” Mataric said. A robot could process this information for their owner.
Robots can be a helpful companion to many people, but there is still a limit on what technology can do.
Link to article: https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2023-07-22/column-these-family-robots-can-play-trivia-and-act-as-security-can-they-cure-loneliness