Nothing can replace human to human interaction. It’s vital to our emotional and physical health and wellbeing. And yet, researchers and health professionals are finding that robots can play an important role in helping to connect individuals with dementia to information, brain-stimulating entertainment and even to each other.
Denver-based DreamFace Technologies has been working on a fully autonomous robot that can have conversations, remember things and even “empathize” in its own way. Called “Ryan”, the robot was developed in cooperation with the University of Denver Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, under the helm of Dr. Mohammed Mahoor, a university professor. But Dr. Mahoor knew that what works well in a lab may or may not transfer over successfully into real world environments.
Since Ryan was designed to assist individuals with memory loss and cognition challenges, Dr. Mahoor needed to find a local memory care community, preferably with leadership that had the vision and commitment to help “test drive” Ryan. He found the perfect partner in Highline Place Memory Care in Littleton, Colorado.
The residents were eager to pitch in and help “iron out the kinks” in Ryan. The process of introducing Ryan to interact with residents got the attention of local news channel, KDVR-TV. Below is a video clip:
Jodi Cornman, senior community relations director for Highline Place, was interviewed by KDVR as well as The Patch, Denver’s local newspaper. She was not surprised that the residents were happy to help. “Our residents are very interested in serving others,” she told The Patch. “Working with Ryan in this trial is a way they can help advance innovation in memory care to benefit people now and into the future.”
Will robots have a role in the future of memory care? They do hold promise, although it may take some time to learn to what extent. In the meantime, the residents of Highline Place are happy to be a part of Team Ryan and the development process. As resident, Brian Nelson told the KDVR reporter when asked about the robot, “I liked a lot about it. Nothing against it. It’s interesting.”
That’s a good start.