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Robot ‘Matilda’ helps engage older people living with dementia, new research shows


La Trobe University Professor Rajiv Khosla with Matilda

La Trobe University Professor Rajiv Khosla with Matilda

The social robot Matilda can be used to effectively engage aged care residents living with dementia, according to the results of an Australian trial.

Significantly, the study also found that the residents largely enjoyed their interactions with Matilda, with just 2 per cent reporting concern with the robot’s presence.

Researchers at La Trobe University measured levels of engagement and acceptability of the robot among 115 residents living in four residential aged care facilities from 2010 to 2013.

The findings have been published in the International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction.

Matilda was jointly developed by NEC Japan and the La Trobe’s Research Centre for Computers, Communication and Social Innovation.

The robot, which recognises human voices and faces and detects emotions, can dance, play music and call out Bingo numbers or cards.

Matilda can also remind people living with dementia about the daily schedule and tell them the news and weather. The robot is also capable of making phone calls using Skype.

The researchers noted that engagement in people with dementia is associated with decreased restless behaviour and reduced use of psychotropic medications.

Yet a lack of engagement is common among residents living with dementia in residential care settings, they said.

The trial of Matilda, by researchers Rajiv Khosla, Khanh Nguyen and Mei-Tai Chu, found there was significant improvements in “emotional engagement, visual engagement and behavioural engagement” among the residents in the four facilities.

Significantly, most residents reported they enjoyed interacting with the robot. Just 2 per cent felt concerned with the presence of Matilda, the study found.

Almost 90 per cent of respondents said they felt comfortable with Matilda dancing and 75 per cent felt relaxed talking with the robot. Some 60 per cent reported that Matilda could improve their daily life, while 88 per cent said that the robot made them feel better.

“The results implicate that by socially engaging older people with meaningful activities provided and [mediated] by Matilda, we are able to break technology barriers and encourage acceptance of Matilda amongst the older residents,” the researchers said.

The research team said their findings suggest that social robots like Matilda may be useful in aged and dementia care as a supplement to engage residents in meaningful social activities and group therapy services like Bingo games, singing and dancing.

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2 Responses to Robot ‘Matilda’ helps engage older people living with dementia, new research shows

  1. Carmen January 25, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    It is all very well promoting the use of a robot to interact with neglected dementia residents but a robot cannot relace human interaction which is a necessary social need for humans. This is the artificial intelligence future currently being developed and promoted which will leave people without jobs. Without a working human population consumerism will not be able to exist. Again this study is all about making profit for shareholders because many providers do not and will not have to provide the staff required for their consumer’s needs. In the short term these robots may be helpful for some residents but in the long term it will only add to their social isolation and depression. Machines will never be able to duplicate/supply the same qualities as a real human interaction.

  2. Kim January 26, 2017 at 9:54 am #

    Can not agree with you more Carmen. I have been in aged care working as a Diversional Therapist and have seen many trends, new technology come and go. Instead of wasting money in many new trends that do not last, how about investing in a system that ensures all aged care services provide appropriately trained staff that are members of their professional bodies…. spend the money and reward those facilities who do encourage this practice.
    Nothing can replace time spent with a resident to reminisce of time gone by and past achievements but also future goals, wants and needs. There is a life and future residing in aged care if only residents have the right medical care and leisure and recreation programs provided by a degree trained Diversional Therapist anda team of Recreation Activities Officers with a certificate 4 in leisure and health .

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