A robot called Jibo has been helping the veterans at a hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts, by guiding them in a yoga exercise. Arielle Scoglio, a doctoral student studying population health at the Northeastern University, is analysing how the veterans interact with Jibo, and how receptive they are to talking to it and taking instruction from it. Scoglio’s research at the Northeastern focuses on the social determinants of health. Recently, she and her colleagues published a literature review that looked into how social robots manage their physical and psychological well-being
It was found that while there’s great potential for using robots to improve the quality of mental health care, the field is still unexplored. The research focused on five different types of social robots that are currently being used in the field. Resembling a “baby harp seal”, Paro is a robot used in settings involving nursing home residents who might be socially isolated or struggle with cognitive and memory problems. Studies show that Paro has had a positive effect on patients with dementia, helping to improve their well-being and ability to socialise with others. They also looked into the effectiveness for people of robots that act as companions or as therapists. An example is a robot that can motivate an individual to pursue his or her fitness goals. The research found a positive response to these robots. In fact, some people reported feeling motivated to exercise after interacting with them. Another type of a social robot that was analysed is a robot that offers information on demand. This robot, called Betty, can perform tasks such as giving a weather report or playing a song. Betty was designed to communicate with humans, and have a calming effect on users. It is quite similar to Alexa or Siri.
“My goal in using these platforms wouldn’t be to give people who are socially isolated a robot to be their social support, but to help them use robots to access more human social support”, she says.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman