[1/4/17] PIPER MCGOWIN– Rice University’s Aging in Place lab in Austin, Texas is working with tech giant IBM to create a robot to take care of your grandma.
Called the Multi-Purpose Eldercare Robot Assistant (MERA), the Watson-powered robot referred to as a “robotic roommate” is supposed to help take care of elderly people in a more affordable way than nursing homes or hospice care can offer.
The robot will constantly scan the living environment for health and safety hazards, taking biometric readings of its human roommate. Business Insider reports:
Sensors can detect when the stove’s burners are on, or when a person has fallen down. Even in its prototype stage, MERA is equipped with cameras to read facial expressions, sensors to capture vital signs, and Watson-powered speech recognition to know when to call for help.
The company believes Japan, a nation with a vast aging population that has begun using barcode stickers to track its elderly people suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s, will be the first to adopt the elder care robots. Probably true.
“In the near-term, it would be more of the ambient sensors in the home starting to gather all of this data,” [Senior technologist at IBM Research Susann] Keohane says. Then a robot could come in and download those batches of data to “learn” about its resident.
While this new robot is supposed to help secure an older person’s independence and keep them safe, the whole thing sounds more like a technocratic police state for elderly people.
Didn’t the show Humans warn us about this exact scenario?
Plus… if you were old and needed help going to the bathroom, would you want this thing to help you do it?