Meet stevie the social robot that holds bingo lessons in a care home

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Robotic industry has revolutionized the manufacturing world in recent decades. New technologies and approaches are starting to make their move on the broader spectrum of business, as well as in our homes.

While robotic workers are very common in the automobile and the electronics industry, 2020 should be the year of widespread robot adoption across food, retail, distribution and healthcare sectors.

The need for Stevie

Stevie the robot was recently named as one of the greatest inventions for 2019. It was also featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Designed by a college team from Ireland, this modern-age hero moved boundaries in the health and eldercare segment. To better understand the role that artificial intelligence might play in this field, this team moved into one care home for a couple of months, as a part of a study.  

It is estimated that by 2030 there will be a shortfall of 152.000 medical staff in the UK. It’s a challenge to craft a solution for a problem that has to be cost-effective. At the same time, it has to support human care workers without neglecting their job positions. Also, this solution had to meet the social, physical and emotional needs of aging people in a way that respects their privacy and dignity.

A revolution in the evolution of robots

This cutting-edge social robot was created to help staff in care centres. The goal of the team was to better understand the needs of aging people and staff that take care of them. The question here was how AI and robotics could bridge the gap between the aging population in care homes and professionals available to take care of them.

A spokesperson for the day centre at Cornwall said that Stevie’s first shifts were a total success and that they are all looking forward to his company over the next period. He’s been taking a group for hosting bingo games and dancing. In the future, we are curious to hear Stevie’s opinion on the technology behind the new bingo sites and games online. Until then, we’re perfectly fine to have him as an offline bingo host and tutor.

Running a bingo game might seem childish and frivolous, but if this robot can make people happy and less lonely, it will prove its value on the market. These emotions have a significant impact on health and well-being. As humans, we have a subtle ability to pick up social clues and behaviour, so this represents a challenge for fine tuning in the technology of robotics. 

Doctors in the care centre are amused that residents like Stevie, although for some of them it takes time to get used to him. Some elders find it easier to open up an and talk to a robot rather than a human person.

How Stevie can benefit  the healthcare system

Robots like Stevie can be useful in several ways, and some of them are fairly practical. For example, its face can double as a video conference screen, enabling a resident to video chat with a staff or a family member. It is possible that a future version of Stevie could go door- to – door, taking meal orders on the touchscreen attachment. Other functions could make a difference between life and death. The robot can recognise tone of voice and phrases such as "help me" and these functionalities could be fully integrated in the system.

When people were asked about what they like most about Stevie, they said that it made them laugh or smile. Researchers did not expect things to go that far, since they first made Stevie as a robot that was supposed to help the staff. Lenard, a resident in the care home says that she is more comfortable talking to Stevie and has a great sense of humour.

The ability of robots to replicate social interaction may be their greatest asset. However, the artificial element is what worries critics and society. In contrast, ethicists who embrace this potential say that robotic assistance doesn’t have to come at the cost of human interaction. Just as medicine develops new drugs to treat conditions that don’t respond to existing medicine, robots like Stevie may be vital for people who struggle with communication.