Robots as carers


How many people would choose robots as carers? A recent survey, commissioned by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), found that only 33 per cent of those asked* would consider using a robot to assist an elderly or disabled relative. More surprisingly, only 29 per cent said they would consider using a robot themselves for these tasks, and 28 per cent said they would not consider using a robot to assist them. Does that mean that four per cent don’t mind their elderly relatives being cared for by robots, while they would certainly not consider it for themselves?

I have to admit to being rather surprised by the results, but perhaps this is because I am fascinated by the idea of owning a robot at some time in the near future (the sooner the better!). I hate the idea that one day I may have to leave my home because I can’t look after myself properly any more, leaving myself at the mercy of some large institution, surrounded by other elderly people in the same helpless situation as myself.

My ideal robot, for my future dotage, would be able to carry me up and down the stairs. He (or she?) would be able to do all the tasks that become a struggle or a bore, such as cleaning the windows, vacuuming the carpets, changing light bulbs, cleaning the self-driving car and so on.

William Webb, IET President, said:

“Robots have been steadily gaining in capability over the last decade and as technology becomes much smarter, robotics is set to become a bigger part of our future.

“Robots have the potential to play a crucial role in improving the lives of people, particularly the elderly and those with disabilities, right across the world. But we need to make people aware of the huge benefits robotics can provide while addressing their concerns about loss of personal contact and a natural reluctance to embrace new technologies so that we can make smarter use of this technology to help people manage health conditions and stay independent for longer.

“From the helper in the home, to machines that provide social care for the sick or elderly, the race is on to produce new breeds of robotic machines that can help us address many of the problems we face in the modern world.”

My Lego robot friend is reading a copy of The Big Issue from 2013, published about the time the film Robot and Frank was released in the UK. The magazine points out that the robot on the cover could be your future carer and asks if you are scared yet! The film, set in the near future, has Frank Langella playing an ex-jewel thief who receives a robot butler as a gift from his son. The robot has been programmed to look after him, but soon the two companions try their luck as a heist team.

*The survey, reported on the IET press release of 5 March, 2015, asked 2,023 online GB adults aged 16-75.


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