During this Colloquium Norbert Krüger from the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute, University of Southern Denmark will tell us about his research about WELFARE ROBOTICS IN ELDERLY CARE HOMES.
Robotics is one of the fastest developing technical fields in the last decades with constant growing-rates of around 5% per year. In the 60th to 90th, robots have been predominantly “fast moving but daft machines” that replaced monotonous manual labor and by that boosted the production of goods. This was one reason for a never known before wealth in many developed European countries.
Already in the 80th, robots that perform tasks outside production halls based on their cognitive understanding of the world have been discussed. However, such cognitive understanding has turned out to be much more difficult to model than expected. Only recently, robots that interact with humans – but which not necessarily possess highly developed cognitive skills – are about to enter public spaces and even private homes.
In particular the pressure caused by the demographic development in Western European countries allows for easily creating very good business models for the application of so called “welfare robots” in care institutions for the elderly. In my talk, I will give an overview of current developments in welfare robotics in the elderly care sector, the technical problems that still need to be addressed and the applications to be expected within the next decade. In particular, I will introduce the recently started project SMOOTH (smooth-robot.dk) which stands for “Seamless huMan-robot interactiOn fOr THe support of elderly people”.
As for most other technologies, there is a great potential for solving fundamental societal problems with such welfare robots. However there is also the risk of an “industrialization of elderly care”: While production facilities without humans are a real possibility, elderly care homes without “warm hands” need to be characterized as a societal nightmare.