Robotic is what we become when we are bored

Photo of Praminda Caleb-Solly

Praminda Caleb-Solly is Professor of Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies in the Faculty of Environment and Technology at the University of the West of England. She responds poetically to concerns that arisen through working on the Catch me if you can Participating through Play project for D4D.

We are working on a robot that can help with dressing. Currently we are working on ensuring that such a robot will be able to operate safely when working in very close proximity to a person – so for instance know what to do when the person is distracted or makes an unexpected movement – like sneezing.

Thirdly we are working on driverless cars – which are also classified as autonomous systems – that can be at your beck and call to take you where you want, when you want. We are developing easy to understand dashboards for these driverless cars and we hope to run trials with smart pod in a residential village next year.

There is still a lot of technical development work to be done in getting this technology to work successfully and reliably in the real world

Repetitive chores that suck the zest out of your bones
Dull jobs that make you echo zombie tones
Dirty cleaning tasks that make you retch and groan
Dangerous is when you feel bitter and worn

We are not seeking to replace carers,
We want to make their lives brighter and fairer.
We are trying to make tech that will free up their time,
For more hugs, gossip and walks amongst the pines.
Not bend in agony from years of scaffolding holds,
Return the joy which led them to caring for the old.

We were born into warmth, love and delight
Nurturing lies in our hearts, setting the spark within alight.
I do not believe that this should ever be replaced,
However a robotic toilet will be my saving grace.

Dignity in being able to independently wash,
Get up when I want to, get dressed and walk.
The more that I do, the fitter I’ll stay,
Being helped to use my noodle and prompted in better ways.

And when I’m too frail to turn in bed,
I know that warm arms will embrace and nestle my head.
Cause Sarah is no longer needed for Molly down the road,
She is now free to come to me, now that I have slowed.
As for Molly, her robotic walker has her scooting all over,
She is coming round later to see my book about Dover.

Do I really need a chatting bot?
Should it have eyes that can spot when I’m caught up in knots?
Tina’s son Ryan is far more entertaining,
I’ve been telling him how to deal with the slugs gorging on the salad he’s growing.
But a bot that could get my stockings on, while massaging my varicosed pins and that lot,
It would be a great feature built into my future modular robotic cot.

I don’t really need a social robot to tell me I look divine,
Myself and my friend Alice can do our own pep-talk fine.
What I want is a physically assistive robotic aid,
That helps clean windows and can wield a spade

If it communicates with my wearable watch
To tell my doc my ticker’s losing its toc
That will do me, yes, happily ever after
Instead of just smiling inanely, help with pre-empting disaster

I’d rather we focussed on perfecting a built-in cooker bot
That can do the veg expertly while stirring the pot
If I have dementia and the bot looks like Fred
It might keep me company and won’t mind when I fret
But neither will Charlie, now that he is free,
From cleaning the bog out, that’s done by Giddel bot number 3

The world’s pretty broken if you ask me
If Sue can’t get to her lunch club, then where will we be?
Working on putting emotions in plastic bots, possibly fine …?
But there are teens and old living alone who could share time
So that’s why I’m campaigning, building the practical tools
That will keep you and me mobile, and help us put on our shoes.

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