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Will Robots Cheer Up the Elderly? 216

Posted by chrisd
from the rhetorical-question dept.
Drath writes "Researchers at Purdue University are conducting a study by placing Sony Aibo robots in a Lafayette, IN nursing home. They want to see if robots can make people happy. Lets hope they have robot insurance." Makes you wonder if the AARP will have a position paper on this. Hope when I get old(er) I'll have gold plated killer robots around for my entertainment. pycananthemum also was kind enough sent in a link to the Project page.
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Will Robots Cheer Up the Elderly?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If their only company is C-3PO it's going to a lot worse for them, not better ....
  • by Dimwit (36756) on Thursday April 11, 2002 @06:18AM (#3322020)
    It's a pretty well-proven fact that regular contact with loved ones keeps you healthier. So this could actually prove to be either a good thing or a bad thing...

    Assume that these robots become friends to the patients. They will get their daily dose of contact from someone whose patience never gives out, and gives them someone to talk to about war stories or crocheting or whatever it is old people talk about nowadays.

    But I'm worried that this may prove to create some problems too. It's already difficult enough to drag some people to see grandma in the home, and now they will have the excuse "she's not lonely, she's got CompanionBot!"...

    So maybe this will actually reduce the interpersonal contact experienced by the elderly.
    • How about the technological threshold the elderly would have to pass. They didn't grow up with technology and are therby very comprehensive about it.

      My grandfather would touch the remote of his own tv. He still got up each time to walk to the tv, although he lost a leg in WW2.

      I already see my grandfather take of his leg because a CompanionBot is getting to close for comfort.

      THink of all the info the bot's could collect and forward to UBER BOT GATES. Before you know it they have all intell on you because granddad likes to talk about the kids. (NO no crashing yokes here)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Pak chooie unf, Pak chooie unf unf unf

      We are the space robots, We are here to protect you, We are the space robots, We are here to protect you, We are the space robots, We are here to protect you, We are here to protect you, From the terrible secret of space,

      I am the pusher robot, I shove around the blind people, We are here to protect you, From the terrible secret of space

      I am the shover robot, I push bread down their throats, We are here to protect you, From the terrible secret of space

      We are the space robots, We are here to protect you, We are here to protect you, From the terrible secret of space, We are the space robots, We are here to protect you, We are here to protect you, From the terrible secret of space, We protect you.

      Space has a terrible power, We are here to protect you, Space has a terrible power, Do you have stairs in your house? ,

      Do you have stairs in your house?

      We are here to protect you, Pushing will protect you, Pushing will protect you, From the terrible secret of space , That is incorrect, , Shoving will protect you , Shoving will protect you , From the terrible secret of space

      Do not trust the shover robot, Shoving is the answer, We are here to protect you

      Do not trust the pusher robot, He is malfunctioning, We are here to protect you

      We are the space robots, We are here to protect you, We are here to protect you, , From the terrible secret of space, We are the space robots, We are here to protect you, We are here to protect you, From the terrible secret of space, We protect you.

      We are here to protect you, Shoving is the answer, Humans must be shoved, They must go down the stairs

      You are mistaken, Pushing is the answer, Humans must be pushed, They must go down the stairs

      Please go stand by the stairs, So I can protect you

      Go stand by the stairs

      Grandma is protected
      Grandma has gone down the stairs
      We are here to protect you, From the terrible secret of space

      We are the space robots, Grandma is protected, , Grandma is protected, At the bottom of the stairs

      I am the pusher robot, Shoving is the answer, I will shove grandma, Outside into the snow

      I am the shover robot, Pushing is the answer, I will push snow, On top of grandma

      I am better than the pusher robot, I am superior, I am better than the shover robot, He is inferior

      We are here to protect you

      Pushing is the answer, Shoving is the answer, I have pushed many humans, I have shoved many more

      The humans are protected, Humans have gone down the stairs, The humans are protected, At the bottom of the stairs

      We are the space robots, We are here to protect you

      Our mission is complete
    • Any kid would probably love to go and visit CompanionBot. So if CompanionBot stay's close to granny she'll still be able to see here relatives.
  • where the robots attacked the elderly? scarey stuff there..
  • by Anonymous Coward
    - a hundred years ago, the elderly lived with the family and were happy, taught the children etc.
    - then we put them to special "homes" or 3rd age residences (not to say "prisons" or ghettos) so that they aren't a nuisance for us young ppl any longer
    - and now that we've denied them any family warmth, we'll entirely replace all their remaining human contact with cold robots (costs less than nurses,eh)?

    i think i'll soot myself before i get old, since
    being old nowadays can no longer be called a life
    • It is not always like that. Several years ago, my grandfather became very ill and was near death. He had completely given up living. For whatever reason he found the will to survive but he still needs continuing attention. We put him in a home that a friend recommended and not only is he doing better now but he actually has a "girlfriend." I actually think that he is more social now that when my grandmother was still alive.

      As for the robot, the eldery aren't just looking for affection, they are looking for affection from their family. At the home where my grandfather is, there is a woman who is a spinster. To make her life more fulfilling they actually have a program where a family "adopted" her.
  • Well (Score:5, Funny)

    by MxTxL (307166) <mlutter.gmail@com> on Thursday April 11, 2002 @06:26AM (#3322034)
    Patch Adams seemed to work well for elderly patients, why wouldn't Bicentennial Man?
    • by Duckz (147715)
      Gigalo Joe could work well in this position also.
      • Well, we all know about Gigolo Joe's positions, but somehow I doubt the oldsters could keep up with him!

        GTRacer
        - Where'f by robot? It ran off wiff by teef!

  • Everyone knows robots can't make people happy. It just gives them a headache to think down to our level.

    At least, they opted for cute Aibos in stead of cute Marvins with Genuine People Personalities...
  • by Wonderkid (541329) on Thursday April 11, 2002 @06:27AM (#3322037) Homepage
    This is very sad. I recall discussing with a colleague at Stanford University how Sony, while excellent at consumer electronics, may go to far with their robot technologies by allowing people to choose robots over animals, simply because a robot is 'cleaner' or initially, less expensive to maintain. Despite being a fan of technology and like most /. readers amazed at Sony's dancing robots (Search BBC website for video), I shudder at the thought of a sterile world where genuine life is sidelined for metal and plastic. I would prefer a dog's wet nose anyday to the artificial equivalent.
    • This is a pet peeve (couldn't resist) of mine. Why the hell should humans live with animals in the first place, what do they produce and what do they consume? I think people that cite the fact that animals raised for food take up more space that could be used for food also should look at the severe pet overpopulation in the world as well. If america for instance dogs and cats consume over $11 billion worth of pet food a year add in the useless amount of medical attention these animals recieve and you have a case where lesser animals are recieving better nutrition and medical care than most of the world.

      If people think this shit is going to go down when we colonize other planets they have another thing coming, resources are scarce and the more that can be used by humans the better imho. Once companion technology has progressed beyond the dog (a pet rock is better than a cat) we should cull the population and be done with them. This all might sound harsh but their usefullness is soon coming to an end and to keep them alive in the face of far greater human needs is inhumane.

      • Why the hell should humans live with animals in the first place, what do they produce and what do they consume?

        The consume some food and attention, and they provide mental health. They encourage empathy and awareness of life, and often are a child's first experience with the realities of life and death. Domesticated animals are a pan-cultural phenomina, and are often used in therepy to stabalize and bring out patients with mental problems.

        I think people that cite the fact that animals raised for food take up more space that could be used for food also should look at the severe pet overpopulation in the world as well.

        Animals are tasty too. There's plenty of food in the world, and no threatened shortage. Steaks are tasty, and I'm munching on a salsa and mozzarella omlette, sausage patties and tofu chips with a scallion pepper sour cream dip. Mmmmm... good breakfast. Yay for the chickens, pigs and cows that went into my meal.

        If people think this shit is going to go down when we colonize other planets they have another thing coming, resources are scarce and the more that can be used by humans the better imho. Once companion technology has progressed beyond the dog (a pet rock is better than a cat) we should cull the population and be done with them. This all might sound harsh but their usefullness is soon coming to an end and to keep them alive in the face of far greater human needs is inhumane.

        Whoa, there buddy. If we sufficently lower our standards to the minimum necessary for mere life, then we've wiped out all that it is to be human. Sure, eking out life on a UV blasted landscape is going to be tough. The pioneers will have to suffer, many will die, and they will lack many amenities. But their children with be slightly better off, and their children's children will progress farther. Eventually, they will be sufficient enough to get to the level of civilization, and all that implies. Art, music, philosophy, pornography, reading Slashdot. I hope that they will be of the level so that pets are an afforable luxury.

        Your vision of the future is inane - the logical end is simply to replace humans with robots, which is not exactly a survival minded concept. I'm speciest. I believe that humans are more important than anything else out there, because it's my team. And domesticated animals are a perk of civilization.

        Colonizing other worlds is, IMO, an absolute necessity. But I hope we bring more than just mindless automitons there. We must bring civilization, and all that it implies. Each world will progress in a different direction, but I hope they all have the luxury of life to have a pet.

        After all, as the quote says: "Where cat is, is civilization".

        --
        Evan

        • " The pioneers will have to suffer, many will die, and they will lack many amenities. But their children with be slightly better off, and their children's children will progress farther. Eventually, they will be sufficient enough to get to the level of civilization, and all that implies. Art, music, philosophy, pornography, reading Slashdot. I hope that they will be of the level so that pets are an afforable luxury."

          Pets perhaps, but what makes a synthetic pet so diametric to companionship with humans? Empathy would require the animal to have emotions, I did not know that cats and dogs were capable of such things, please point out some specific studies. Since you will be probably be unable to cite any relevent studies let me continue; projecting basic human qualities unto animals or robots however futile does have some redeeming benifits but robots unlike animals are far more likely in the future to be capable of a wider variety and complexity of emotion and response. Domesticated pets have been brought from their wild state in such a way that they appear to be friendly and loving but this is deceptive as it is very specific instinctual qualities distorted by millenia of breeding programs that create these behaviors. Most animals do not have the ability for self-recognition let alone emotion towards what must be percieved as the "other" in a relationship.

          "Colonizing other worlds is, IMO, an absolute necessity. But I hope we bring more than just mindless automitons there. We must bring civilization, and all that it implies. Each world will progress in a different direction, but I hope they all have the luxury of life to have a pet."

          I hope so as well and that is the primary reason we should leave animals behind. Intelligence; however artificial, not instinct is a far more rewarding and challanging prospect for relations.

          "Your vision of the future is inane - the logical end is simply to replace humans with robots, which is not exactly a survival minded concept. I'm speciest. I believe that humans are more important than anything else out there, because it's my team. And domesticated animals are a perk of civilization."

          Inane, please. That would be one logical outcome of what I suggest and let me daresay I would support it for a multitude of reasons I will not digress too candidly into sharing here.

          I am not a speciest per se but I see our course of evolution as the most viable for long term survival and proliferation of knowledge, thus far. I am not so blinded by our current form on the evolutionary ladder to prohibit or inhibit the forces of change that will select for even more advanced forms of life. Lest we forget that as a matter of survival robotic lifeforms in theory are more apt than their organic counterparts.

          no organic pets though, please

          • by CaseyB (1105) on Thursday April 11, 2002 @09:22AM (#3322456)
            Empathy would require the animal to have emotions, I did not know that cats and dogs were capable of such things, please point out some specific studies.

            I have no "specific studies" for you. Having spent many years with dogs, however, there is simply no question whatsoever in my mind that animals have emotions. Dogs in particular seem more emotional than humans. At least, they're more expressive. Happiness, sadness, anger, guilt, irritability, they've got it all.

            Instead of "data", try Occam's razor on this. Is it more ridiculous to believe that animals have emotions and thought, or to believe that humans alone of all animals have them? I think there are no fundamental differences between animal and human minds. We're just farther up the grade on the intelligence meter.

            • I was discussing with my family the other day the question of why Dogs and Cats are not considered Sentient species (albiet of a lower level intelligence then Humans).

              One of my dogs can understand when She is being refered to by Pronouns.

              Now THAT is spooky.

              "Is it time for her you know what?"

              ::dog proceeds to run over to the biscuit box::

              Shnitz!

              Annnyways.

              The final conclusion was that we most likely do not consider other animals besides ourselfs to be sentient because of the legal and moral ramifications that it would bring up, it would be a royal pain in the ass to deal with and most people quite frankly just do not want to deal with those types of issues.

              :(

            • I agree with your point.

              I also add that pets are furry and cuddly (and all the geeks on slashdot say "that's nice. Now shut up and go back to playing with your giggley-puff doll".) Won't lovable robots be just as sufficient and furry and cuddly pets?

              In the mid 50's, a psychological researcher by the name of Harry Harlow, a pioneer in the study of attachment theory, did an experiment where he took infant rhesus monkeys away from their mothers and put them in front of two different "artificial mothers": one made of wire that carried a bottle of milk, and one artificial mother made of cloth that didn't have a bottle. The infant monkeys vastly preferred the cloth cuddly mother "doll" over the wire mother "doll", even though the wire doll had a bottle and the cloth one didn't.

              For more info on this (and to prove I'm not BS'ing), check it out here [pbs.org]

              I think it's a neat experiment what they're doing with the AIBO's, but in the end its still "Cloth doll vs. Wire doll".

          • Pets perhaps, but what makes a synthetic pet so diametric to companionship with humans?

            Because pets, like humans, are flawed, unpredictable, self-centered and unique. Robotics is fun, interesting, and a wonderful relaxing hobby. I have no doubt that it's a great thing to get into. But why should one preclude the other? Both are perfectly valid aspects of human interest. I don't like potato chips. They are also generally considered to be unhealthy. Should I say that you are illogical and shouldn't eat them?

            Empathy would require the animal to have emotions, I did not know that cats and dogs were capable of such things, please point out some specific studies. Since you will be probably be unable to cite any relevent studies

            Click here [google.com] for nine studies from diverse, respected journals, just on the first page of returns. Scientific American, The Society for Neuroscience, Rutgers' University, University of Toronto, University of Houston, and several others treat emotional response in animals as fact, and both study those emotions and base studies on them.

            But that's moot - my initial point was that it develops empathy, which requires emotion to be present in the human. Perhaps you work under the assumption that humans do not have emotions either?

            It disturbs me greatly that you labor under the assumption that animals do not have emotions. That indicates either a near pathological denial of observed fact, or a total lapse of experience in a near omnipresent aspect of society. It's as if you denied that men and women were physiologically different, and that there would be no studies to prove that.

            Most animals do not have the ability for self-recognition let alone emotion towards what must be percieved as the "other" in a relationship.

            You are a perfect example of why pets are an important aspect of life. Your views are not only very at odds with observable fact, they seem to derive from a lack of emotion on your part. Do you have *any* passion in your body? You seem to lack basic emotional balance, and while I am not one to attack a person in an argument, I (and I am sure many people reading this exchange) am utterly baffled by how you could have come to your current view points.

            --
            Evan

          • Empathy would require the animal to have emotions, I did not know that cats and dogs were capable of such things, please point out some specific studies.

            It's not the pet that has to have emotions; it's the human. All that is necessary is that the pet interact with the human in such a way that it helps build empathy in the human. Dogs certainly do this. It also helps if the pet does not behave in a way that is inconsistent with the hypothesis that the pet has empathy. This is true of dogs; if they lose control with a human, they usually then behave as if they were sorry. It is not true of most cats.

            As for whether pets have real love, it isn't a useful question. I don't know if any human other than me can feel love, and there is evidence from some ex-girlfriends and wives that many of them cannot. However, Bosco, Siren, and Tess display more evidence of love for me than you display of the ability of cognition.

      • what do they produce and what do they consume?

        You've got to be joking. Our pets may be consuming food that starving people in 3rd world countries would eat, but we (the pet owners) sure wouldn't.

        And they produce endless amounts of satisfaction, amusement, and loving feelings - all things we happily pay for. Believe me, I waste lots more money and resources on junk that returns little to me than I spend on cat food.

        If robots can produce those same benefits for people, then more power to them! I have my doubts that they can/will anytime soon but that's just my opinion. If no one tries, then it will certainly never happen. I think it's great that someone is trying.

        As for the rest of the world, I say to them - sucks to be you. Sounds cold, eh? Well it is. I'm not losing sleep or majorly depriving myself because I'm more fortunate than much of the world.
        • As for the rest of the world, I say to them - sucks to be you. Sounds cold, eh? Well it is. I'm not losing sleep or majorly depriving myself because I'm more fortunate than much of the world.

          Nice to see you stand firmly on principle. "I got mine, sucks to be you." Pets give you warm fuzzy feelings... but you proudly proclaim that you couldn't care less about the suffering of your fellow humans.

          Wow. You're so cool. And deep. Wow. I hope that all Americans can be like you. Oh, wait. They already are.

        • "And they produce endless amounts of satisfaction, amusement, and loving feelings"

          So do illicit drugs, your point?

          We as humans must either unite or jingoists like yourself will destroy us by cataclysmic war or equally wretched stagnation before the advent of space colonization. Your viewpoints on others of your own species is so absurd as to be common and yet sadly unpreventable with a certain degree of education.

      • How many of us heard that old line, "Eat your <food type>! Don't you know there are starving kids in China?" Much like that long ago liver (ok, perhaps my parents thankfully never served that, but that's not the point), if I ate it there was just about zero chance anyone in China would
        benefit. Nor would they if I said, "Hey mom, no food for me this week, please!" Pets consume $11 billion a year and have better health care than some people elsewhere. The same applies. If I didn't have a pet, I wouldn't be sending the whopping $100 or so it costs me a year to starving kids in Foobarland. You can argue that I should give $100 (more) than I already do to starving kids in Foobarland, but were I to be swayed by that I'd cut the $100 from something other than maintaining a pet.


        You really might consider a career other than micromanaging everyone elses resource use. We're fortunate[0] here in the U.S. to be rich in many things, just like other parts of the world are rich in the same things and others (oil in the Middle East comes to mind). We already give away tons of that (literally) in private and public charities. That some US citizen dares to spend < 1% of their income on something that makes them happy is really absolutely none of your concern. Most slashdotters probably spend more on internet access in a year than I do on my pet. More power to them. I do hope a large portion of your resources go to provide food and health care to those who don't have it.

        [0] Possibly not the right word, but "lucky" is certainly not. We're in the position we are only as a result of decisions made by our economic ancestors--those who colonized the states and industrialized them. I'm better off than my grandparents and parents. My kids will be better off because I'll continue the same tradition of working hard to improve their condition.

    • As someone who spent the night cleaning up dog-diorhea from the floor I still have to agree...

      However, if there were a robot that would assist in looking after a real pet...

    • I disagree. While I love animals, many people think pets are a good idea until they've had them for a while, then they get fed up and either mistreat them or get rid of them, sometimes in the most horiffic ways. At least with robots, if you decide you don't want it you can sell/dismantle it. No mistreatment of living animals.
  • This is a great experiment. However, I do think that animals need to be taken care of. They also give back a lot of love, not only take. And they are moody, they need as much as they give. I think that's what will be missing in the end... a small furry nose besides the person in the bed, giving heat.
  • by dipfan (192591) on Thursday April 11, 2002 @06:34AM (#3322048) Homepage
    I can't see that this is any different to putting televisions into old people's homes, it's another (albeit novel) type of entertainment - the real point is if the technology should be used as a substitute for "real" human interaction. In the article a sociologist from MIT asks:
    "I think we should take it as a wake-up call and really say, 'Now, why are we giving robot pets to old people?' And the answer, I think, is that we really have been struggling to figure out how to give enough people to old people."

    The answer would be to allow them to have real interaction - wouldn't it be better to install some PCs in homes like this, to let them use the web, email, ICQ, BBS, whatever, and interact with real people. In cyberspace no-one knows you're old.
    • wouldn't it be better to install some PCs in homes like this, to let them use the web, email, ICQ, BBS,

      I think a lot of currently retired folks lives are enriched by having ham radio contacts - radio being 'cutting edge techno' during their prime years in the 40s and 50s. They can meet old friends, check into clubs, report the local weather, all w/o haveing to leave the house. For the current generation, a well wired PC lab will be essential to the more desirable assisted care facilities.
    • The answer would be to allow them to have real interaction - wouldn't it be better to install some PCs in homes like this, to let them use the web, email, ICQ, BBS, whatever, and interact with real people. In cyberspace no-one knows you're old.

      Yes, but everybody knows you are a newbie. :)

  • Elderly persons often have problems keeping in touch with family and friends. This probably makes things worse, since they no longer have a reason to leave their home, and the "electronic pets" can by their very design never have the complexity of a realy living creature. If you have a dog, you have a lot of responsibilities, which keep you upright. An electronic pet does basicly not need more then fresh batteries every few days. And a mind with nothing serious to do decays all the faster
  • Cynical (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BoBaBrain (215786)
    Wouldn't it be a lot more productive to use real animals instead?

    Another ham-fisted PR stunt to show the caring side of a massive multinational.
    • I couldn't agree more. An aibo costs what $2000, whereas an abandoned puppy from the local pound costs about $10, and will last considerably longer (especially if bathed by the old fools).
      • Re:Cynical (Score:2, Funny)

        by linzeal (197905)
        Aibo=Electricity+Irregular Maintanence
        Dog=Food+Water+Grooming+Medical Care+Scooping Poop+Medical Care

        Aibo is cheaper everytime.

      • Re:Cynical (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tialaramex (61643) on Thursday April 11, 2002 @08:55AM (#3322357) Homepage
        Right, and no-one here knows a puppy that has cost $2000 in food, toys, additional living space and vet bills right?

        Aibo is zero hassle. In the worst case, unlike a dog, if Aibo isn't what you expected you can put it in a cupboard and forget about it. How did all those puppy dogs get abandoned in the first place?

        Sony knows that today's Aibo is an expensive toy, but it's part of a long term strategy (a company that size can afford to actually do some forward planning) to be the #1 supplier of home companionship and support robots once there is a market for it. They can only get better and cheaper. Humans aren't getting cheaper, and most of them don't like being treated as servants.

        The future Aibo robot will remember where you left your keys yesterday, it may be able to go and fetch them, it can certainly turn off the TV and lights when you fall asleep. It may be able to screen your phone calls, order your groceries and help with your finances.

        Of course Aibo will want to play when you're bored. It's not hard to make it play Peek-a-boo or Chess, depending on demand. It will probably chase thrown objects. It will try to make friends with *your* friends, and Sony can probably make it compete with you on the Playstation (even if the AI is secretly in the PS game itself)

        If your Aibo smells smoke it will alert you. It will notice if you stop breathing, or if you fall and hurt yourself, and it will summon assistance without panic. Perhaps if people enter the house unexpectedly while you are away or asleep it will call the police.

        When you're 25 these features are cool. When you're 45 they're convenient, and when you're 85 and your grandchildren have moved far away they'll seem necessary.

        The concept is that an increasing percentage of our population need better care than is economically available today. Aibo is foreshadowing Sony's solution to that problem.
        • And in the end, hugging my Aibo would still be a hollow experience. Everytime I read about Aibos replacing pets I'm reminded of Harlow's [a2zpsychology.com] experiments with cloth mothers and wire mothers for monkeys.

          Dress it up in synthetic fur, add some heating elements and rig it up with some tubing so you can imitate a pulse and an Aibo still isn't a pet. It isn't a companion. My cat is. Even knowing that when he rubs his face on my leg when I come home is because he's reapplying his scent doesn't make it any less of a comforting greeting.

          And yeah, cleaning out the litter box on a regular basis and picking up the occassional hairball is sometimes a hassle. It isn't always fun brushing his fur and sometimes it is annoying moving him away from my food when I'm eating. He isn't cheap when I have to take him to the vet and over the past 10 years he's cost me over $2K. Not once has he taken my blood pressure or done my taxes.

          And for all that meager gain for so much money I wouldn't replace him for an Abio ever. After he dies and I've finished crying I'd buy another cat without hesitation never once considering some robot. Why? Because through all the responsibility and "hassle" having a pet is rewarding and it was because it took some effort and was something I couldn't just turn off and put it away when I was bored that makes having a pet even more rewarding.

          Hell, owning fish requires more commitment from a person than an Aibo. And it is that investment which will forever make an Aibo a toy and nothing more imho.

        • If your Aibo smells smoke it will alert you. It will notice if you stop breathing, or if you fall and hurt yourself, and it will summon assistance without panic. Perhaps if people enter the house unexpectedly while you are away or asleep it will call the police.

          I'd love a robot that does all this for me (and everything else you stated). I'd be one of the first to buy one.

          But I don't want it to be my "pet". I don't want it to play ball and I don't want to have to spend time with it to satisfy it's "emotional well-being", because we all know robots have no such thing. In fact, I want it to do what I tell it to do: To quietly take care of my house and stay out of my way. I'd also prefer that it looked nothing like a dog, but more like a funny little robot.

          I have a real dog with real emotions and a real need for love. She snuggles up to me in bed, licks my face, and protects my family. A robot will never be able to replace a real dog. Not for me. It could, however, enhance my life in other ways, and I'd be happy to buy one but it would only be for that reason: To make life more convenient for me. Not to satisfy my emotional needs.
  • If you like these... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Alik (81811) on Thursday April 11, 2002 @06:41AM (#3322059)
    ...check out the Nursebot Project [cmu.edu] here at CMU. Not only will these robots provide companionship, but they are intended to provide basic health monitoring and assistance with activities of daily living. The prototype robots have already gone into nursing homes and interacted with residents, and in general the response has been very positive.
  • woohoo!! i shudder to think how advanced the Britney Spears BOT will be by the time i'm 90 and slobbering all over myself in a old folks home... damn.. thank god we'll have viagra and Britney Bots.. Woo!!

  • I bet if u made those with the ability to lick, it would make people way lot happier!!
  • by DarkHelmet (120004) <mark AT seventhcycle DOT net> on Thursday April 11, 2002 @06:50AM (#3322073) Homepage
    Bender from Futurama meets Grandpa Simpson.

    Are they still showing reruns of Matlock in the year 3000?

  • If the robot is a cross between the Honda creation and a Real Doll, then yeah, I'm pretty damned sure this thing would make me right happy in my old age....

    Max
  • Yes, of course I love my dad\mom I bought them the finest robot money can buy! No, I'm too busy working!

    I can just see this being a placebo to keep people form spending their own time with the elderly.

    On another note. Can you imagine how many , beloved bots, will inherit $$$ from their kindly masters. "He (it) was the only one who was always there for me... To my faithful RBX13....
  • this reminds me of that Saturday Night Live "commercial" with the life insurance that covers even in cases of robot attack...
  • Wrong Direction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oflanigan (524770) on Thursday April 11, 2002 @06:56AM (#3322085) Homepage
    This is ridiculous. There are so many dogs and cats that are killed every day because they cannot find a home. Why can't these animals comfort the elderly we sweep aside? It could be like the Island of Misfit Toys. Everybody wins.

    I know there are concerns about real animals doing all those annoying things like consuming food, excreting, and all those other bothersome life activities. Here's a plan: Let's work on bioengineering dogs and cats that eat used Depends and excrete Viagra! Another win-win situation!

    Seriously, if we can't afford to take care of our domesticated animals, can the day when we can't be bothered to take care of our elderly be far off? This all comes back to our habit of tossing away the old possessions when the new model comes out, which is merely a scam of growth-based capitalistic consumerism.

    One final thought: Any robot that is sufficiently lifelike to provide satisfying companionship would probably deserve the same respect we give "real" living creatures. (Of course, given the standards set for the two leftover groups above, this is not much.) I know everyone hated the ending to "A.I.," but go back and watch the first third of the film.
    • I know everyone hated the ending to "A.I.,"

      I Hated the entire movie myself. I thought I was going to see a groundbreaking film that was a tribute to a master produced by another. (Spielberg and Kubrick) Nope, I saw a great eyecandy wrapping surronding a stale Pinochio. That was two and half hours and eight bucks I want back. (It wasn't all bad, the popcorn was great.)

    • Because animals are horrible things.
      I can't imagine anything worse than not only having to live in an old people's home, but also to be surrounded by animals. /shudder

      Robots on the other hand are cool!
    • At least in here where I live, old peoples homes and homes for handicapped people often have a cat or even few of them as pets. Having pets makes people living in there feel more like home - petting a cat is also a great way to get rid of stress.

      Taking care of pets needs is often good therapeutical activity for people who live in such places.

      There is quite alot wrong still how people deal with animals, like treat them like objects which can be thrown away when they are not funny anymore. I don't know if these pet robots alter peoples behaviour in direction or another, but if people don't take care of their responsibility of taking care of real animals, I don't see why having a toy to not to take care of would be a worse option.
    • I wish that AI would have ended when the ferris wheel at Coney Island started collapsing. It could have crushed the helicopter and smash that little kids to bits. It'd be alright if Teddy miraculously survived though.
  • What's wrong with using regular animals? An AIBO might be effective, but I'm positive that people would respond better to a warm, living, happy animal than to a mechanical toy. Which would you rather have comfort you, a nice cat that could curl up on your lap and purr for hours, or something metal that needs to have its batteries replaced? And if you factor in the cost...I just don't see the point of doing this, unless allergies to pets are a huge issue.

    Colin Winters
  • by Hee Hee Hee (310695) on Thursday April 11, 2002 @07:08AM (#3322113)
    This is sad. Why do we still consider old people throw-aways? Once they get to a point where they can't function exactly like the rest of us, they're of no use to us. We resort to building machines to "take care" of them. I would be hurt deeply if I was stuck in a nursing home (excuse me - managed care facility) and had NO one to visit me, except a soul-less machine. The geek in me loves this, but the human in me wants to puke. Let's get our priorities straight, folks!

    I'll give the researchers and Sony credit. They see a problem and they're trying to find a solution. I don't expect them to fix the bigger problem. I HOPE that the rest of us will assess our personal situtations and do the right thing.


    I'm stepping down from my soap-box now. Thank you.

  • "HAL, please let me leave my home to visit my grandchildren."

    "I am sorry, gramps, I'm afraid I can't do that."
  • They want to see if robots can make people happy.

    I think so. Why else did half the country vote for Al Gore?
  • What do you tell the old folks? that this is their new friend Blinky? or do you tell 'em its not a real person?
  • Is Slashdot picking out robots for their subscription-based geek retirement community? If so, I'd like to change my vote. I don't think Maximillian would make very good company.

  • <bender>Cheer up or I'll kick your ass!</bender>

  • I heard a story on NPR the other day about some of the robots at Robodex, and they talked a little about how in Japan some nursing homes are doing this. They gave reasons such as some people are afraid of animails (dogs, etc), nothing to clean up, you can't be cruel to a robot (at least not untill People for the Ethical Treatment of Robots is created), don't have to feed/walk/clean up after them, etc. I think this is a good idea.
  • Researchers at Purdue University are conducting a study by placing Sony Aibo robots in a Lafayette, IN nursing home.

    In a related study, researchers at Purdue University were examining the health consequences that can occur when a large number of old people trip over small Aibo robots roaming around their otherwise peaceful nursing home.
  • PAK CHEWIE UNF GRANDMA HAS BEEN PUSHED DOWN THE STAIRS

    *sigh* all in the name of that TERRIBLE SECRET OF SPACE!
  • "Old people don't need companionship. They need to be isolated and studied so it can be determined what nutrients they have that might be extracted for our personal use."

    -Homer Simpson
  • by loydcc (325726)
    Given my limited background in financial services I'm really surprised someone isn't selling policies with this kind of premium rider. I mean robots are showing up in the home. Wouldn't you want to limit your liability in case of tragic robot accident.

    Saturday Night Live was hilarious especially getting Sam Waterston to narrate. But still with robot lawnmowers selling in the surbaban marketplace I know I'd feel more comfortable about buying one if I knew I was protected from liability if the thing strays into my neighbors yard and takes out a 2 year old playing in her sandbox.

    It's only a matter of time before this kind of thing shows up in the newspapers. And if it doesn't happen to me I'll piss myself laughing at every headline.

  • This is pretty sad commentary on our society. We put old people away in the prune farm with a TV and a robot for companionship while they wait around to die.

    I sure hope that we learn to treat the elderly a little better before I become one. I'm sure that we will have some really cool robots by then and they will be cheap enough that maybe I could even have two. Maybe HDTV will be rolled out by then also.

  • We will be really strong but we will all only be 5 feet tall.

    I am going to have chainsaw arms

    BZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz
  • Who's gonna cheer up the robots? This is a bad idea, as it will only create a generation of maladjusted, angry robots. And we all know where that will lead us, eh?
    • Who's gonna cheer up the robots?

      Thats obvious they'll start up 'Granny Wars' to cheer the robots up.

      Instead of DeathMetal they'll be 'DeafZimmer'

      Dominator will be replace by 'OneFootInThe Grave'

      Razor will be replaced by 'Eyesore'

      etc...
  • Did anybody actually bother asking what they want? My experience of old folk is that they seem happiest when they've got something to moan about. Give them an ED 209 running WinMe.

    Consider it euthenasia by the blue screen of death

  • This reminds me of the poem read at a funeral...I wish to wear purple (or some such) suggesting that once old people no longer needed to care for their children they should act like naught children again.

    They should spend their last remaining years like overgrown children being silly and having real fun....they should grow old disgracefully not being baby sat by a robot

    Why couldn't think organise some real events:

    Love ins in the rest homes, even the elderly need sex too. Or failing that at least a T1 connection and free access to porn sites.

    Sports events, its not uknown for people even in their 80's to go skydiving for example, they could combine the two...naked granny skydiving that'd scare the neighbours!

  • We don't need gramma mistaking the accelerator for the brake and sending the robot through the Retirement Castle wall.
  • The Old Glory commercial from SNL:

    Old Lady #1: When my ex-husband passed away, the insurance company said his policy didn't cover him.
    Old Lady #2: They didn't have enough money for the funeral.
    Old Lady #3: It's so hard nowadays, with all the gangs and rap music..
    Old Lady #1: What about the robots?
    Old Lady #4: Oh, they're everywhere!
    Old Lady #1: I don't even know why the scientists make them.
    Old Lady #2: Darren and I have a policy with Old Glory Insurance, in case we're attacked by robots.
    Old Lady #1: An insurance policy with a robot plan? Certainly, I'm too old.
    Old Lady #2: Old Glory covers anyone over the age of 50 against robot attack, regardless of current health.

    [ cut to Sam Waterston, Compensated Endorser ]
    Sam Waterson: I'm Sam Waterston, of the popular TV series "Law & Order". As a senior citizen, you're probably aware of the threat robots pose. Robots are everywhere, and they eat old people's medicine for fuel. Well, now there's a company that offers coverage against the unfortunate event of robot attack, with Old Glory Insurance. Old Glory will cover you with no health check-up or age consideration. [ SUPER: Limitied Benefits First Two Years ] You need to feel safe. And that's harder and harder to do nowadays, because robots may strike at any time. [ show pie chart reading "Cause of Death in Persons Over 50 Years of Age": Heart Disease, 42% - Robots, 58% ] And when they grab you with those metal claws, you can't break free.. because they're made of metal, and robots are strong. Now, for only $4 a month, you can achieve peace of mind in a world full of grime and robots, with Old Glory Insurance. So, don't cower under your afghan any longer. Make a choice. [ SUPER: "WARNING: Persons denying the existence of Robots may be Robots themselves. ] Old Glory Insurance. For when the metal ones decide to come for you - and they will.

  • if they look like Bob Barker
  • by naoursla (99850)
    It is a well known fact that robots eat old people's medicine.
  • We should build robots that look and sound like Family Members(TM) -- you would never have to see your old depressing boring grandparents..

    sheesh
  • What could be worse than being a pet in a nursing home. You're responsible for cheering up a bunch of depressed seniors, and who's there for your needs? Nobody that's who.

    I suggest we use the robots to cheer up the pets when they get off duty.

    Or get them a monkey. He likes pumpernickel [monkeybagel.com] [monkeybagel.com]

  • I'm sorry. I can't do that Dave.
  • Gort, Let's go trolling for Ho's. Get the wheelchair.
  • does anyone remember the SNL sketch about robots attacking the elderly and taking their medicine for fuel??

    this is far too much of a coincidence
  • but they will make lots of old Macintoshs smile.

  • You know, Douglass Adams is probably rolling over in his grave.

  • I think we all know that the current generation robots made of metal and electronics don't have sufficient warmth, cuddliness and responsiveness to make people happy.

    I'm sure there will be some stopgap measures for people that aren't too particular, including GeorgeClooneyBots for grandma and BritneySpearsBots for grampa.

    But seriously, I think the only way these things can succeed is to make them correlate with what old people recognize as genuine warm and friendly loved ones.

    Face it, short of the loved one actually being there, we get some small bits of satisfaction out of seeing their photographs, their videos, hearing their voice on audio, talking with them on the telephone.

    That being the case, the robots should mainly be communication and recording devices. Designed so that real loved ones can present their visual and audio images effectively through the robot at at distance, or, with recording, through time.

  • by krmt (91422)
    Not if the robots are Jack Valenti [slashdot.org].

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