The robot MARIO that was developed for users with dementia in an EU project coordinated by Prof Dympna Casey in Nursing at NUI Galway, is a human-shaped, 1.20m tall assistive robot that is able to navigate the environment and communicate both by voice and a tablet interface. Its purpose is providing personalised support to help users manage their daily life, provide reminders, engage them in music, games or therapeutically beneficial activities like reminiscence, and connect them with others.
The highly versatile humanoid robot NAO is often used for entertainment or instruction, for example, for engaging users in games, physical movement or learning activities. One application area is their use for children with autism, helping them learn letters or body parts, imitate movements, or practise social interaction when they find this difficult with human interlocutors. The baby simulator robot RealCareBaby, a natural looking baby robot, is used in a variety of ways, as companion for some, as baby care training device for others, and as a means of assessment of a person’s basic infant care skills. These robots can engage and support users, with availability around the clock.
However, the use of robots in care has not been uniformly welcome; some people worry that robots might negatively impact care. Popular culture has depicted benefits and concerns associated with the use of general-purpose care robots, for example in the movie “Robot & Frank” or the recent Channel 4 series “Humans”, which depict the potential complexity of relationships between humans and care robots. While these films provide very perceptive and complex depictions of ethical concerns, the abilities of currently available robots are still a far cry from those fictional robots.