Robots are becoming mature enough to be utilised in various assistive and service tasks outside factory floors. Robots can carry heavy loads and perform repetitive, tedious tasks for humans, and provide physical, cognitive and social support for older and infirm people. Robots are to increase productivity, but in a longer term, social robots can also profoundly change our way to communicate and arrange our life and society.
Robots and AI in elderly care and assisted living
VTT studies the potential of robots and artificial intelligence technologies in supporting the independent, active life of older people and high-quality care services. We apply the action research strategy to learn how robots can be used to solve practical problems in elderly care and how the integration of technology into services should be facilitated. Short and long-term field trials with real robots in genuine care environments are our main methods to study the user needs and acceptance of robots and their impacts.
One of our cases is a three-month study of a transportation robot assisting care workers in a care facility Kuuselakeskus in Tampere, Finland. The tasks, routes and the physical scaffold of the robot were co-designed together with the Kuuselakeskus care workers and management. Their wish was to decrease time and physical burden due to transporting food and supplies to residents in the facility. The field study is ongoing from April to June 2019.
The study is part of the project Robots and the Future of Welfare Services (ROSE) and implemented together with Tampere University.
Robots and service work
In service work, as in any work, there are tasks that are tedious or burdensome to humans, or they are just piling too much. We study how robots can support people in their service work and increase the value of it.
Social robots can provide routine assistance to customers and new kind of services and customer delight with their capability of natural communication in speech, gesturing and facial expressions. Social robots are more than self-service machines: people tend to perceive them as social agents and even develop emotional attachment to them.
As part of the MuMMER EU project, VTT implemented a social robot demonstrator in Ideapark shopping mall in Lempäälä, Finland in 2019. The robot will provide information, guidance and entertainment to customers. We study the use and impact of the robot from many perspectives, of both visitors and staff in the mall as well as the business.