David Hanson’s “Grace” May Be the Answer to Shortage of Senior Health Aides

Ever turn on the TV, scan Facebook, or check out viral news stories online and see Sophia, an extremely life-like humanoid robot? Well, if you haven’t seen her, Sophia is a robot that is designed to look very human that has gotten lots of attention during the pandemic for her ability to help people who are lonely and socially isolated, particularly seniors.

Sophia, who was designed by Hanson Robotics, is capable of imitating human gestures and facial expressions. She’s equipped to answer certain questions and engage in simple conversations. Cameras are embedded in her eyes, and along with computer algorithms, she’s able to see things and can track faces, maintain eye contact, and recognize people. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, gives Sophia speech recognition technology and as incredible as it sounds, she is “designed to get smarter over time.” Hanson, the company that created Sophia, believes that robotic solutions like Sophia are not limited to healthcare, but could assist customers in industries such as retail and airlines too.

Besides the capabilities that were mentioned, Sophia is a robot of many other talents. She speaks, jokes, sings, and even makes art. In March 2021, a digital work she created as part of a collaboration was sold at an auction for $688,888 (in the form of an NFT — non-fungible token)! In 2017, she was even granted Saudi Arabian citizenship, becoming the world’s first robot citizen. She has also graced the cover of Cosmopolitan, gone on a date with Will Smith, and made countless television appearances. For younger fans of Sophia who are fascinated by STEM and AI, you can now buy Sophia the robot’s sister, “Little Sophia,” designed to help to introduce STEM, coding, and AI to children.

Another Similar Robot is Created Specifically for the Medical Sector

Since designing Sophia, Hanson Robotics has developed a prototype robot to engage with seniors and those isolated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike Sophia, the Grace robot is dressed like a nurse, has a thermal camera in her chest to take temperatures and measure responsiveness, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose patients, and can speak English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Grace, whose facial features resemble a “Western-Asian fusion of anime characters,” can mimic the action of more than 48 major facial muscles. Unlike Sophia, Grace is specifically targeted at the health care market and designed to interact with senior citizens.

“I can visit with people and brighten their day with social stimulation … but can also do talk therapy, take bio readings and help health care providers,” Grace told Reuters as she stood next to Sophia in creator Hanson Robotics’ Hong Kong workshop.

How Grace Can Help with Senior Healthcare

Hanson Robotics founder David Hanson said “Grace resembles a healthcare professional and is designed specifically to ease the workload of front-line hospital staff inundated during the pandemic and senior caregivers.”

Developed specifically for the medical sector, Grace’s launch comes in the middle of the pandemic when there has been increased demand for telehealth solutions and contactless care. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), “global sales of medical robots were already on the rise before the pandemic, and could nearly double in the next three years.”

Hanson Robotics founder and CEO David Hanson believes that robots like Grace are intended as a support for medical professionals rather than a replacement. According to Hanson, “(u)sing AI and robotics in this context can help gather important data for healthcare providers to assess the wellbeing of the patient.”

Hanson Robotics says it will begin mass-producing robots, including Sophia and Grace, at the end of 2021.

David Hanson Talks About his Robots on Ted Talks

David Hanson aims to create robots as socially adept as any human being. A former Walt Disney Imagineer, he has been labelled a “genius” by both PC Magazine and WIRED, and has earned awards from NASA, NSF and Cooper Hewitt Design. According to TED Talks, if Hanson succeeds, he will create a socially intelligent robot that may even one day have a place in the human family! See his TED Talk here.

AI will Augment Rather than Replace Humans

Some humans, including those in medical fields, fear that AI will replace them one day. Experts in engineering and technology believe that there is nothing to worry about. They are confident that, similar to computers, artificial intelligence will operate hand in hand with humans in the workplace, not take their jobs.

According to Forbes, besides robots, AI is helping caregivers with home health monitoring, wearables to personalize the care of seniors gaining in place, smart device assisted fall detection, and companionship, and even helping anti-aging researchers understand the process of aging to develop methods to delay the process.

AI and other technology, such as carebots, is emerging because of a shortage of caregivers and others in the healthcare field. With the use of AI, there is a growing faith that tech can fill this gap, with the help of robots, artificial intelligence, and remote monitoring. Exhausted caregivers and understaffed caregiving companies will be better able to keep tabs on seniors’ health and wellbeing. The emergence of such technology could also better help seniors age-in-place in the comfort of their homes.

Benefits and Potential Harms of AI Technology

As you can see, there are potential enormous benefits of AI technology, but some also worry about its potential harms. In a recent article I wrote, Can Carebots Look After Your Senior Loved Ones?, I cover some of the issues that have arisen, such as privacy issues, deception, over-reliance on AI, and a decrease in real human contact.

When AI and Other Technology are Not Enough

If, despite the technology that is available, you or a loved one cannot live independently and are showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time to consider other alternatives. And, who know, your loved one may see robots similar to Grace in his or her healthcare setting!

Whether the outcome is in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care in the future, it is always wise to plan ahead. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into assisted living or nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you and your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Please contact the Farr Law Firm whenever you’re ready to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

 

Elder Care Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888

Elder Care Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-143

Elder Care Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041

Elder Care Attorney DC: 202-587-2797

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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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