November 15, 2013

high-tech caregiving

The Boston Home Wheelchair Enhancement Center Director Don Fredette assists Don Oliver. Credit: Mike Ritter / The Boston Home

We're looking in the U.S. at an aging population - the baby boomers are rapidly turning 65, and the demand for people to help care for those who are getting older is only going to rise. Kara Miller chatted with WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay about amazing advances in technology - particularly in robotics - that may fundamentally change what life is like for us as we age.

What if you could have a robot that helped take books off the bookshelf, that could help you pick up things on the floor, that could walk behind you at the supermarket and hold your bags? Perhaps even a robot that could play interactive games with you? That's exactly the sort of thing that is being developed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, spearheaded by Professors Jeanine Skorinko and Taskin Padir. 

MIT has partnered with The Boston Home to bring cutting-edge technology to caregiving.

What other innovations could revolutionize care-giving in the United States? Students at MIT have actually been partnering with a residents at The Boston Home, which houses people - some young, some old - with many of the issues that commonly face the elderly, from problems with memory to problems with sight. And one of the pieces of technology that has worked well at The Boston Home - which would almost certainly be incorporated into a robot - is speech recognition. That's what enables residents who might not be technologically savvy to tell computers what they want and then communicate with relatives.

All these technologies - whether they are voice-activated or use new advances in machine learning and sight - are likely going to come together over the next several years to create, essentially, assistants that the elderly can lean on in their daily lives.

Culture, robots, elderly, Sci and Tech

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