Growing up watching TV shows like Metal Mickey and films like Star Wars, I used to dream of having my own personal robot. But that dream now seems a little closer to reality…
I thought that my robot could help me out with all the chores I didn’t want to do, and would be cool to hang out with when none of my friends were around to play – although, I’d probably have preferred it to be more R2-D2 than C3PO.
But now that this fantasy might actually become a reality in mine or even my parents’ futures, I’m not too sure how comfortable I am with it.
To help solve the looming elderly care crisis, an international team of academics are currently working on a £2m project to develop humanoid robot carers.
These robots are designed to assist in the care of older people in homes, sheltered accommodation, and even in their own properties.
The personal social robots will be able to be pre-programmed to suit their ‘human’s’ needs and help out with everyday tasks, such as chores and supervising medication.
But, these robots will also be able to tackle loneliness by offering companionship and the ability to connect better, through smart appliances, with the outside world.
The project aims to expand the capabilities of the Pepper robot (which is already used in thousands of Japanese homes) to build a machine that can re-configure to match the culture, customs and etiquette of its charge.
The robot will also be able to speak, move independently and pick up on signs that the older person is unwell or in pain.
And it could be available in care homes in as little as three years.
Although I’m not in need of care for my parents just yet, thinking about my grandparents when they started needing help at home, it’s not a million years away either.
So would I be comfortable leaving them in the care of a robot while I went to work and carried on with my own life? And, despite my childhood fantasy, would I even want it for myself?
I wonder how much I could really trust a robot – what if it went rogue and started dishing out pills like Smarties? Or, if my parents took a fall in the night and needed urgent medical help, would the robot be able to react accordingly?
Then there’s the very real prospect of it developing a fault, as technology does.
So, would you be comfortable with a robot carer? Could you get the appropriate care and attention from a robot as you’d get from a human?