Social Assistive Robotics: Evolution and New Advances in the Field

robótica social asistencial

Social assistive robotics is a technological domain that has rapidly evolved in recent years, enabling the provision of innovative solutions to improve the quality of life for individuals. Especially for those requiring assistance in their daily lives due to age, disability, or illness. Advances in this field are paving the way for the development of smarter and more personalized social robots, capable of adapting to the unique needs of each user.

As technology progresses, the sector is expected to continue growing, offering increasingly sophisticated and accessible solutions. As we will explore, social assistive robotics has the potential to transform how we care for and interact with individuals in need of assistance, opening new possibilities for a more inclusive and humane future.

What is Social Assistive Robotics?

Specifically, social assistive robotics focuses on the development of robots designed to interact with and assist individuals in various tasks and activities, from healthcare to emotional companionship. These robots are designed to be intuitive and understanding, adapting to the individual needs of each user. The primary goal is to enhance people’s quality of life by providing personalized assistance and promoting autonomy in those who need it.

Today, social robots are more than mere machines. In fact, they have the potential to significantly influence our emotions because they are designed to mimic human behavior. They have bodies that move and gesture like ours, speak, and express emotions in ways that are familiar to us. And often, they look like us! This combination of factors makes it easy to attribute anthropomorphic characteristics to social robots or perceive them as human-like.

Advancements in Social Assistive Robotics

In recent years, significant advancements have been witnessed in social assistive robotics. One notable development is the creation of companion robots that provide emotional support to the elderly or those experiencing loneliness. Equipped with facial and voice recognition capabilities, these robots enable more natural interactions.

Moreover, assistive robots are increasingly being utilized in healthcare settings. For instance, in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, robots can assist in physical and occupational therapy, guiding patients through specific exercises and providing real-time feedback. They are also used in the care of individuals with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer‘s, aiding in daily task reminders and medication assistance.

In this regard, the development of robots capable of interacting with people in a more natural and intuitive way is a reality, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. For instance, robots can now recognize human emotions and respond to natural language commands, engaging in conversations in a more human-like manner.

Furthermore, the development of more affordable and accessible robots is becoming more feasible through the use of new manufacturing techniques and the creation of open-source software platforms. As a result, such units are increasingly available for use in various environments, including homes, schools, and hospitals.

New Models of Social Robots

Certainly, research and development in social assistive robotics are giving rise to new models of robots with enhanced capabilities tailored to different user needs. Some examples include:

  1. Humanoid Robots: Designed to resemble humans in appearance and movements, facilitating interaction and communication in tasks such as companionship, mobility assistance, and household chores.
  2. Personalized Assistance Robots: Aimed at providing specific assistance for each individual, adapting to user preferences and needs. They provide personalized reminders, medication scheduling, and assistance in daily activities.
  3. Mobile Social Robots: Capable of autonomous movement in the environment, allowing them to provide assistance in various locations and situations. Useful in healthcare settings, nursing homes, or even private homes.

Current Examples of Social Assistive Robotics

Here are some concrete examples of social assistive robots currently in use:

  1. Paro:
    • A robotic seal designed to provide companionship to the elderly and those with dementia. Studies show that Paro reduces stress, anxiety, and loneliness in these cases.
    • Developed by PARO Robots, with the first prototype created in 1993 at the Institute of Intelligent Systems Research of Japan AIST.
  2. Buddy:
    • Developed by the French company Blue Frog Robotics, Buddy serves as a robotic companion for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Marketed as an “emotional robot,” it has a versatile and multipurpose design with an attractive personality.
    • Proven to assist in the development of social skills, improve communication, and reduce anxiety in individuals with autism.
  3. Pepper and Nao:
    • Developed by Aldebaran United Robotics Group and distributed by Inrobics in Spain, Pepper and Nao easily establish empathy with patients due to their humanoid appearance and behavior.
    • Nao, in particular, has shown its ability to improve rehabilitation therapies and provide additional tools to healthcare professionals. It facilitates activities based on imitation and useful exercise series to improve patients’ quality of life.
    • Pepper can provide simple and individual instructions for activities such as exercise, process and share medical results with healthcare professionals, and offers a telepresence function for constant contact with relatives and friends.

Overall, both units generate real, objective data intended for the analysis of patients’ medical histories, facilitating the enhancement of healthcare quality. Undoubtedly, all these advancements serve as a representative showcase of the current progress in social assistive robotics.

The Future of the Sector

The social assistive robotics sector is experiencing exponential growth and is expected to continue expanding in the future. As technology advances, social robots will likely become smarter, more intuitive, and capable of providing even more personalized assistance.

Additionally, the development of machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence will enable social robots to better understand and adapt to individual needs. This means they can anticipate needs, offer personalized recommendations, and adapt to changes in user preferences and abilities.

In terms of future applications, assistive robots are expected to play an increasingly important role in the care of the elderly. They will also offer more support in rehabilitation and medical care environments. Furthermore, their application is likely to expand to special education, childcare, and general social interaction.

The Revolution of Social Assistive Robotics

At Inrobics, we are part of the revolution in social assistive robotics by proposing and developing an innovative rehabilitation model that employs artificial intelligence and social robots to support individuals with functional or neurological limitations. Contact us for more information about our therapies and to request a free demonstration!

Picture of Fernando Fernández

Fernando Fernández

Full Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) since October 2005 and former CEO of Adact Solution, SL. He has received various awards and grants, such as the predoctoral FPU fellowship from the Ministry of Education (MEC) and the MEC-Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship. In 2020, he was honored with one of the JPMorgan AI Research Awards. He has published more than 50 articles in journals and conferences in the field of AI. Since July 2022, he is on sabbatical as a Visiting Researcher at Texas Robotics, University of Texas at Austin, conducting his research and laying the groundwork for internationalization. A distinguished professional with solid international training and experience in technology and innovation. He is driven by the desire to apply rigorous scientific methods to develop and validate innovative solutions in the health and technology sectors.