Manitoba Robot Fights Loneliness

Manitoba Post StaffNews

WINNIPEG – Researchers at the University of Manitoba are getting $470,000 in funding from the province and a charitable foundation to develop robots to help care for people who are alone at home. Minister of Economic Development and Training Ralph Eichler announced the strategic partnership with the Victoria General Hospital Foundation at a news conference on Thursday.

The plan is to use robots to maintain remote communication between those experiencing dementia and their caregivers. The machine would use cameras, speakers, microphones, and a display monitor for interaction, giving the caregivers the ability to see and hear how the patient is doing.

Dr. Reg Urbanowski, dean of the College of Rehabilitation at the U of M, who is leading the project, says the research will figure out how effective telepresence robots can be at combating loneliness among dementia patients, while allowing their caregivers to find a balance between work and home while caring for their family members.

Dr. Urbanowski says it’s time to innovate the existing technology needed to make this accessible to families and caregivers to reach out and support their loved ones. The robots would have the potential of helping people maintain a higher level of independence for a longer period of time without the need for moving into a personal care home.