The future of home care?

Last Saturday SvD, one of Sweden’s major newspapers, posted an article in their printed only edition about the arrival of ‘the era of the robots’, covering how modern robots are challenging macro economical beliefs that higher unemployment would be positively correlated with lower production. The article, partly based on the work by two researchers at M.I.T., points out that the structural change that we are seeing in the labor market, and that is explaining the ‘jobless recovery’, shows that as systems and technologies get more and more integrated, jobs that earlier were considered too advanced for robots and/or systems, can now be automated.

One such job, that is not fully there yet, but that the science fiction world has long foreseen as to be held by robots, is that of the home care assistant. Whereas large scale implementations in this field thus far have been delimited to robots carrying out simpler tasks, such as vacuum cleaning or lawn mowing, new, improved humanoid and social robots are showing the potential to change that.

One good example is that of Nao, an autonomous, programmable, humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics, that with its over 1500 units distributed worldwide is the world’s most used humanoid robot.

As the ‘seeing’, ‘hearing’, ‘speaking’ ‘feeling’ and ‘communicating’ robot that it is, Nao really has the potential to become the perfect little home helper. As Bruno Maisonnier, CEO of Aldebaran, put it “Old people turning blind can say ‘Hey, Nao, please come here’, and the robot will recognize somebody asking him to come, he would go over and ask what do you want me to do – (like) reading my email or newspaper.”. Current research projects include teaching Nao how to prepare a drink, how to entertain as a stand-up comedian or how to win Robot Soccer World Cup SPL (RoboCup).

As the general public will have to wait until late 2012 with Nao’s adaption to the consumer market, til then you can try to make do with this little demonstration of Nao’s entertaining capabilities:


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About agmiranda

Miranda Edner is an account manager currently working for a large American multinational technology and consulting corporation. She has a background in mechatronics engineering, industrial management, democratic development and dance. Her heart beats for global development, creativity and innovation.

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