New software gives robots skills to be companions

A new robot, designed for people living in social isolation, is being marketed for rent in aged care homes and retirement villages.

Tech company, Conpago, worked with aged care providers to develop its software which links with robotics and common appliances to reduce loneliness and help people keep in touch with their loved ones.

The tablet-based software can perform similar functions to smart phones such as calling people, sending text messages and calendar reminders, with functionality that is relevant and intuitive for the elderly.

It can also integrate with appliances that form part of an elderly person’s routine such as the TV or kettle, notifying family members when the user switches the appliance on and sending a warning after unusual periods of inactivity.

“The user doesn’t need to do anything but go about their day, while Conpago sends their loved ones unobtrusive messages to let them know they’re OK, or more importantly, warnings if something seems amiss,” Conpago’s Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder Mackenzie Jackson, said.

“Conpago is easy to understand, includes voice prompts and reminders which help introduce it into the elderly person’s daily activities, and has a focus on hyper-relevant features such as medication reminders and community news.”

The system integrates with the robot, Pepper, which is capable of recognising faces and basic human emotions to welcome, inform and entertain people in an innovative way through voice and its touch screen.

Already used in libraries, banks and shops throughout the world, the integration will mean Pepper can act not only as a host in aged care facilities, but be a companion for aged care residents.

Family members can use the Conpago smartphone app to stay updated about the care, health and wellbeing of their loved one through easy communication between the client, the family and the care provider.

A desktop portal enables aged care providers to manage customer relationships, set up appointments and update clients about things happening in the facility through Pepper.

Based on QUT research, the technology has been structured around key concerns in aged care including social isolation, a lack of transparency, loss of independence and security.


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