Are we ready for care robots?
On Wednesday 13 October, De Heer Medicom visited the Fontys ICT InnovationLab to talk about robotics in healthcare. The company has a long history in automation within healthcare institutions and has been exploring the possibilities offered by domotics robots for some time.
Product manager Martijn Goossens and software developer Roy Leenaerts had therefore brought along robot James for a demonstration. This was at the invitation of the HTES professorship which, under the banner of 'affordable personal care', works together with professorships of the Fontys institutes People and Health, HRM, Paramedics and Engineering within the strategic Fontys theme Enabling Technologies.
There are many peripheral issues to take into account when deploying robots, Goossens explains. The hardware and software must do what you want, costs are a factor, but also very practical considerations such as the size of the robot and managing the programming. James is less than one metre tall and has a friendly appearance, but another model is the more imposing Cruzr. Not only is this one difficult to transport due to its size (which is why Cruzr is not with us today), but it can even cause unease or fear. Programming is also a challenge according to Leenaerts; a simple composer can also be accessed by care personnel, but often results in complex structures that are difficult to oversee.
What can a robot do well?
Medicom has carried out various pilot projects with robots and is convinced that robotics can relieve staff, but also provide entertainment for patients. For example, James has various applications for entertainment, such as games and video apps, can stimulate patients to move with exercises, but also enables social interaction. Moreover, James has an alarm and prevention function. Goossens: "Suppose a client tries to walk away, then you can program James to distract the client at the door. If you know that he likes Formula 1, for example, he can play a video.
Goossens and Leenaerts were then bombarded with questions from students and researchers. For example, what is the added value of a robot compared to a tablet? Goossens: "We see that the mobility of a robot gives more value to the interaction. Even though many possibilities are the same, you see a robot more quickly as a buddy instead of a device." A number of questions were also unexpected, but not unwanted by Goossens. Especially about the programming and accessibility of the robot. "We work a lot with Maastricht University on fundamental research, but often miss the applied part. Of course, we have limited possibilities to do this ourselves, and exchanging knowledge like we are doing now is essential. An ICT or paramedical student has a different view of a robot than someone from a healthcare organisation. You need the views of all three to make this possible."
Want to know more about our applied research into robots and other technologies? On 3 February 2022 we present our projects during ICT in Practice. More information can be found soon on this website. Take a look at previous editions here.