Sydney-based startup Andromeda Robotics has integrated generative artificial intelligence into robotics to complement the support provided in aged care.
WHAT IT DOES
Founded by a group of engineers in 2022, Andromeda Robotics aims to transform human-robot interactions by developing empathetic companion robots, targeting the elderly and children in hospitals.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
The prototype humanoid robot named Abi is designed to interact with senior residents at aged care facilities in a “relaxed and conversational manner.” Enabled by machine vision and Chat GPT-4 AI chatbot, Abi can recognise people, answer questions, tailor conversations based on past interactions, and even share stories and tell jokes.
Additionally, it has entertainment features, such as playing music and games, dancing, tai-chi, exercises, and blowing bubbles.
Andromeda Robotics has worked with advisors from animation studios Pixar and DreamWorks to make Abi’s body language “as empathetic and engaging as possible.”
WHY IT MATTERS
The startup is now conducting an on-site trial of the Abi prototype with Allity, which has over 40 residential aged care facilities across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
The trial, which started in September intends not only to seek data to further enhance its companion robot but also to offer a potential solution to the growing shortage of aged care staff across Australia and its impact on residents. Based on a projection by the non-profit Committee for Economic Development of Australia, the country is facing a shortfall of at least 110,000 direct aged care workers by 2030. By complementing care, Abi can meet the needs of residents who are dealing with loneliness and depression.
Allity and Andromeda Robotics have yet to share the initial outcomes of the trial but they already noted immediate acceptance from residents.
Besides Allity, Andromeda Robotics is also working with residential and community aged care provider Baptcare in Victoria and Tasmania. It also plans to expand the Abi trials to children’s hospitals starting early first quarter of 2024.
Robotics are increasingly becoming a staple adjunct technology in elderly care worldwide. Its widest application to date has been to assist carers, such as in lifting and holding residents, and to support residents in moving to prevent falls.
An early example of AI integration into robotics for supporting senior care was the animatronics project by toymaker Hasbro and researchers from Brown University in 2017.
The Israeli company Intuition Robotics might be the first in the world to offer a generative AI-powered companion robot for independent seniors. In August, it raised $25 million in investment to scale ElliQ.
Meanwhile, the use of companion robots in senior care is nothing new across Asia-Pacific. South Korea seems to lead the region in its adoption with deployments organisation-wide, and even at the provincial level down to the districts.
Its uptake in Australia, however, has been slow due to poor quality of interactions, Andromeda noted. The startup targets to bring its fully functional robot to the market “within the next 18 months.”
ON THE RECORD
Andromeda Robotics co-founder Grace Brown shared how generative AI has effectively transformed robotics to advance the delivery of empathetic care.
“Gen AI enables companion robots to deliver personalised and empathetic care – a level of care that goes beyond mere functionality. Robots can now express distinct personalities and emotions, bridging the gap between human interaction and robotics in a way that was previously unprecedented,” Brown told Mobihealth News.
“In practical terms, this means that patients and residents in aged-care facilities can form more meaningful connections with their robotic companions. These robots are no longer cold, clinical, mechanical devices but rather animated characters come to life. This shift enhances the well-being of individuals by addressing overlooked emotional and social needs, ultimately contributing to a higher quality of life and improved overall healthcare experience,” she added.
Andromeda Robotics’ partner Allity also underscored the value of AI-powered companion robots in providing aged care today.
“Unfortunately, feelings of loneliness and depression are all too common in aged care. I see a huge opportunity for robots such as Abi to make a real difference for residents and their quality of life. They can’t replace humans but can complement the fantastic levels of care that our staff provide,” said Thena Johnstone, National Pathways Manager at Allity.