Meet the NAO robots, Australia’s latest robots to be working in aged care.
Utilising built-in sensors, cameras and some careful programming, these little robots can walk, talk, dance and recognise faces. They appear to take on human characteristics as they wink, shrug and hold out a welcoming hand.
Standing at just 58 cm high, Chairman Nao and Nero lead exercise classes, assist with rehabilitation, play games – and even help residents leave their rooms.
“They can have conversations with residents, hold their hands and walk around, and dance,” says Austin Kirby Lifestyle Team Member, Mark Moran Group. “They ‘Gangnam Styled’ at the official opening of Mark Moran Vaucluse!”
As well as having fun, the NAO Robots assist in a range of activities, including Tai Chi, ball playing (an exercise where the robot kicks a ball to a resident, who rolls it back to the robot), and a range of rehabilitative activities, both physical and mental.
“It’s a perfect way to turn an exercise class or even just a social discussion group into something truly spectacular,” says Mr Kirby.
Residents think the robots are fantastic. “Even when we can just watch them, they make us laugh and feel happier. It’s even better when we can follow their movements, particularly when they show us how to do Tai Chi,” one resident says. “It’s really futuristic to see robots in my home, but also to be able to interact with them – even have conversations. One day when I was playing ball with one of the robots, my son and grandson came in. The robot introduced himself, and asked my grandson what his name was. They really are funny little creatures.”
Jo Caughtry, Director of Operations, at Mark Moran Group feels the engagement isn’t ‘better’ than human interaction, but it’s different and new. “We want to engage our residents as much as possible, using the latest innovations, and the fact that these guys are robots is a characteristic that changes the way our residents engage with them and understand on the whole,” she says.
With the capability to customise movements and activities unique to Mark Moran Vaucluse and its NAO robots, Ms Caughtry believes the organisation is utilising these possibilities as a leader in the space. “Although there has been much innovation in the robotics space over the past few years, progress has been slow in eldercare, where we see a distinct advantage in being able to give more individualised care to our residents through use of the technology.”
As well as assisting in aged care, the NAO robots are been used to assist in education, particularly helping users on the autism spectrum and they have also been trialled in receptionist duties in offices.