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TECH TAKES ON NEW ROLES


ROBOTICS ARE READY TO HELP T


by Sara Wildberger


he robot makers have something very important that they want you to understand: You are irreplaceable. “It is important to note TEMI’s purpose


is not to replace the human experience; it is there to simply enhance and supplement it,” Connected Living CEO and co-founder Sarah Hoit writes in an email interview. The CEO of the venture that has cre-


ated Grace, a humanoid robot intended for senior living, seconds that. “We’re not meant to replace the nurse,” says David Lake of Awakening Health. “We see her as more of an assistant to the nurse, so the nurse would be freed…to focus on a higher level of support.” Robotics in senior living, like other


technology, advanced at a fast clip during the pandemic, both because the original imperatives of workforce shortages and increases in numbers of older adults continued, but also because robots aren’t vulnerable to viruses—at least not to the same kinds of viruses humans are. The idea is to have a safe way to provide


a measure of communication and compan- ionship to alleviate social isolation—much as robotic pets have shown success in doing.


Recognizing residents Connected Living’s TEMI, for instance, is a personal robot designed to empower residents to connect with loved ones in a safe and innovative way. It is something like a tablet plus a smart


speaker that can follow you around—but an extremely smart speaker, and one with a mighty memory and a pleasant desire to please. It gives medication reminders, controls smart home devices such as tem- perature and lighting, and adds items to your grocery list, Hoit writes. It recognizes faces and has a voice. “It learns how to engage with residents


and remembers what you like. Its smart AI can help make suggestions and act as an engaging companion whose company you come to enjoy in new ways over time, even if it is as simple as playing joyful music or remotely attending a live concert.”


TEMI, although arguably cute, still


looks like a machine. Grace, the latest incarnation of a humanoid robot in senior living, looks very close to real. Like many models in U.S.-targeted advertising, she has features and coloring that could plausibly fit in any one or combination of racial or ethnic groups; she wears a nurse’s cap. The team behind Grace has as its goal the


creation of “affordable, intuitive Hanson Ro- bots augmented by advanced SingularityNET AI as an assistive healthcare communications and biodata management platform.” Awakening Health is a broad internation- al partnership including Dr. David Hanson, of Hanson Robotics, Dr. Ben Goertzel, AI scientist and founder of SingularityNET, and David Lake, CEO of the venture. Hanson Robotics have “skin” made of a


patented substance called Frubber, which is highly flexible and has a human feel. The best-known robot—who also appeared at a Senior Living Executive Conference—is So- phia, who gave interviews on “60 Minutes” and became a citizen of Saudi Arabia.


Building empathy “We’ve learned over the years that the great majority of people are very attracted to this when they meet them face-to-face,” Lake says. “Our goal is to make them not only attractive, but to develop the elements of compassion, empathy, understanding, and friendship. “That’s a lot of work, to make a robot be compassionate, empathetic, and friendly, but that’s what we’ve specialized in, and we hope to have achieved that with Grace.” A robot is endlessly patient, “happy”


to answer the same question more than a dozen times. They don’t feel frustration or need to vent. But it can also collect life stories, help


with exercise or meditation, encourage hydration, and just “talk.” Although it carries many challenges, col-


lection and processing of health data may be the “greatest value of Grace in the long run,” Lake says, such as early detection and monitoring of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and other conditions.


Connected Living’s TEMI is a personal robot that can follow a resident and move into the best position for use of its tablet-like screen. It can also remember people’s faces and what they like.


12 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021


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