Robot Engagement: Fieldwork on Human-Robots Interaction at a Nursing Home in Tokyo

I did my fieldwork on Human-Robots Interaction at a nursing home in Tokyo with Prof. Takanori Shibata, who is father of a therapeutic robot, Paro.

The nursing home use many different kinds of robots, not only “robots suits” by Cyberdyne but also communication robots such as Aibo, Pepper and Paro.

The first photo shows elderly people with dementia sat together in a common room as they have to be awake during the daytime. Some watched TV, others did nothing.

But this silence was suddenly broken when the nurse brought in Aibo and Paro. The residents became very excited, alive and smiling – touching and talking to robots.  Gradually, however, the excitement wears off – and a few began dozing off again.

However, when the nurse came to sit next to them, they became happy to talk with the nurse while holding Paro, as you can see in the second photo.

Not only elderly people but the nurses too seemed happy.

The care manager, Yukari Sekiguchi told me, “the greatest effect of robots that they bring smiles to our nurses”. Paro makes elderly people calm dawn and reduces the tension between them and the nurses.

The significance is this: social robots are not just about healing people; they act as media to connect and reinforce social intimacy between people at the affective level.


About Toshie Takahashi

Toshie Takahashi is Professor in the School of Culture, Media and Society, as well as the Institute for Al and Robotics,Waseda University, Tokyo. She was the former faculty Associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. She has held visiting appointments at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge as well as Columbia University. She conducts cross-cultural and trans-disciplinary research on the social impact of robots as well as the potential of AI for Social Good. 【早稲田大学文学学術院教授。元ハーバード大学バークマンクライン研究所ファカルティ・アソシエイト。現在、人工知能の社会的インパクトやロボットの利活用などについて、ハーバード大学やケンブリッジ大学と国際共同研究を行っている。東京オリンピック・パラリンピック競技大会組織委員会テクノロジー諮問委員会委員。】
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