Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Robots being used under research project to help elders

Dec 03. 2019
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By THE NATION

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Further research is being carried out using “Chujai”, an artificial intelligence (AI) robot project, to help elders in terms of mental health and memory.

Initial research under the robot project has already been conducted by the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, from December 2017 to May 2019.

Thailand is forecast to become a completely aging society by 2031, and the government plans to establish nursing homes to support an increasing number of elders in the near future. But because of personnel shortage for the project, the government gave the university a grant to carry out the research.

“We are conducting research on the use of AI for analysing and examining patients’ mental health and depression through a chatbot system” said Dr Konlakorn Wongpatikaseree, project head and professor at the Faculty of Engineering. “Most high-class elders in Thailand usually live in nursing homes and appear to have mental problems, depression, or Alzheimers disease caused by loneliness of being far from their families or relatives.”

The project uses robots, which can talk to the elders around the clock to help their mental health and recover their memory from dementia. The target of this project was elders in nursing homes, where staff were not enough or could not take thorough care of them.

“We tested AI in numerous aspects – design, research ethics, clinical psychology – which can estimate and calm patients’ emotions,” explained the project head. “Clinical psychology was designed by a psychologist of music therapy. Integrated with AI, it can detect sound and process voice to text for interacting with elders. This system will help recover their memory through applications and games with the robot.”

The next phase of this project is to develop a smartphone application for use with robots, helping both people and elders to access this kind of robot from anywhere.

The project will develop into a Tele Medical Health centre, helping patients to contact psychologists through a robot or video call. 

“After completing our research, we will have to see if it is indeed practical to use these robots. However, we need two more years to improve the robots for proper use with elders,” said Konlakorn.

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