La Trobe University's Professor Rajiv Khosla with the robot, Matilda.
La Trobe University's Professor Rajiv Khosla with the robot, Matilda.

Robot comes to the rescue of dementia sufferers

SMALL in size but big in what it can offer, Matilda the robot has been developed to help engage aged care residents living with dementia.

The robot, which recognises human voices and faces and detects emotions, can also dance, play music and call out Bingo numbers or cards.

It can also remind people living with dementia about their daily schedule and tell them the latest news and weather forecast.

The robot is even capable of making phone calls using Skype.

Matilda was jointly developed by the La Trobe's Research Centre for Computers, Communication and Social Innovation in Melbourne and NEC Japan.

Most of the residents that participated in the Australian trial reported that they enjoyed interacting with the robot.

A lack engagement is common amongst residents living with dementia in residential care settings, researchers Rajiv Khosla, Khanh Nguyen and Mei-Tai Chu said.

They found there was significant improvements in "emotional engagement, visual engagement and behavioural engagement" among the residents at the four test locations.

"The results implicate that by socially engaging older people with meaningful activities provided and [mediated] by Matilda, we are able to break technology barriers and encourage acceptance of Matilda amongst the older residents," the researchers said.

The findings were published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.


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