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LTCR: Long-Term Care Robotics

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George Friedman, the chief executive officer of Statfor, Austin, Texas, a geopolitcal analysis firm, has predicted in “The Next 100 Years” that, sometime around the 2060s or 2070s, robots will displace the many millions of Mexicans the United States will bring in to keep long-term care (LTC) affordable.

The recent Intercompany Long Term Care Insurance (ILTCI) Conference in Las Vegas did not include any sessions on strategies for recruiting Mexican LTC workers, or major geopolitical clashes caused by conflicts between robots and human LTC workers, but it did offer a session on how smart homes and robotics might help people with disabilities stay in their homes longer

Ian Sanders of SimplyHome, Arden, N.C. — a wireless independent living technology firm — talked about how relatively simple, low-cost systems can help people maximize their independence today.

His company sells products such as a medicine cabinet sensor that can detect whether a woman has taken her pills and a stove sensor that can detect whether a man has left a burner on the stove unattended. The company also sells sensors that can help show whether an individual is eating properly or has been in bed longer than usual.

The equipment might cost a few thousand dollars, installation costs might average a few dollars per day over the course of a year, and an individual might need to spend up money on related support services, such as access to an emergency medical monitoring center, Sanders said, according to a written copy of his presentation posted on the ILTCI website.

But the savings for a group of people who get to stay home, rather than moving into a nursing home, can be large, Sanders said.

Pam Gheysar, marketing director at Two Gamma Inc., Denver — a robotics company — talked about use of robots to maximize independence.

Two Gamma makes robots that can perform tasks such as helping with security patrols and bringing meals and drinks to people who have trouble getting around.

Gheysar warned against assuming that older people will get help from robots who look and act R2D2 or Wall-E any time soon.

“The earliest robots will be more like a Model T than a self-parking hybrid car,” Gheysar said.

Giving robots the ability to act on their own and the ability to sense and respond to the reactions of people, including people with disabilities, will be difficult, Gheysar said.

For now, she said, the robots that are available to help people with disabilities usually must be guided by human beings using “telepresence” systems, such as wireless telephone networks. The robots might bring audio, video, meals and objects to their human clients, and they can be useful, but they are “not much of a workforce multiplier,’ she said.

Gamma Two robots are starting to make plans and come up with strategies for overcoming problems, and that might be a start at creating robots that can do more, Gheysar said.

The next step is to deploy companion robots that are designed to be autonomous from the ground up and fit into the existing human infrastructure, Gheysar said.


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