By Aliki Kraterou
A soap addicted robot is set to help dementia patients by binge watching hit comedy Friends and popular soap Emmerdale.
Robbie the Robot – who took two years to build by a university lecturer and his students – is thought to be the first of its kind.
After being completed this year, Robbie has spent the last few weeks watching 13 episodes of the soap, Emmerdale, in a bid to help him recognise different facial expressions and body language.
And Robbie has made great progress by already spotting signs of aggression or depression.
It is hoped that in the future he’ll be able to recognise common symptoms of dementia to alert a GP or care worker.
Designer, Ardhendu Behera, a computer science lecturer at Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire, claims he can now recognise 80 human actions and emotions despite only launching their project in 2017.
Ardhendu, who led the project with three students, said: “There are 46.8M people living with dementia and this is set to rise to 115.4M in 2050.
“Depression and aggressive behaviour are often the most upsetting and challenging symptoms for those closest to the person living with the condition.
“Currently the only ways to monitor and manage dementia is by direct observation which is labour intensive, time consuming and can be costly from a care perspective. Or there’s wearable bio-sensing devices.
“We were basically looking for something like a companion or support for ageing populations- the idea is how to help these people when they are alone, to get them some kind of assistance.
“Why can’t we develop some technology to help the carers who help these people with dementia.
“Monitoring and recognition is still very much in its infancy and we believe Robbie is the first robot to use vision-based recognition to recognise four behaviours; aggressive, depressive, happy and neutral.”
Robbie is already able to play music when detecting a dementia patient is in distress in a bid to calm them down.
He is also able to track a patient’s overall well-being to ensure he can react to distressing circumstances before they occur.
Third-year-student Zachary Wharton said: “The aim is for Robbie and robots like him to look for clues as to when the person might be beginning to show aggressive behaviour and perhaps offer a distraction to help them calm down.
“It might be through playing music or showing a video, talking to them. The potential use of robots is huge as they can not only with the daily routine of a sufferer for friends and family but could potentially intervene in situations to help.”
Robbie is about to be part of another project where he is going to binge on ‘Friends’ to study group interactions and activities.