Daily Archives: December 7, 2011

Goodbye Charlie and Hello ?

For years we have been reading about robots that can take over many of the menial household and other chores.  I read these reports with a certain scepticism and a “Will it ever happen in my lifetime” question.

Robotic vacuum cleaners have been around for some time but I don’t know anybody who has used one.

Charlie the robot


Well now enter Charlie.  Here in Auckland, a robot named has been ’employed’ as an aged care worker in a rest home.  Charlie is a health care robot and has been working in the village for the past couple of years.

He is designed to do simple tasks such as taking vital signs, reminding patients to take medication  leaving nurses free to focus on more personal care. Work is also being done on applications that will allow Charlie to detect when a patient has fallen or wandered off.  We are also told that Charlie can even chat with the residents albeit simply.

This is part of a three-year study conducted by the University of Auckland exploring seniors’ attitudes toward robots.   Residents of Selwyn Village their families and staff  were interviewed to determine their views on which tasks health care robots could perform and what the mechanical helpers should look like. So Charlie was “born”.   Weighing in at 45 kgs/99 lbs he has a humanoid name but a 26 cm/10.4 inch touch screen instead of a face.

Charlie has now left the village but in his place some 30 robots – in five different shapes and sizes – are being introduced to Selwyn. At this point of their evolution, the Selwyn robots can not only help provide healthcare but also enable Skype voice and video calls over the internet (numbers can be pre-entered and the connection made with one touch of a button). Some have additional brain-fitness programs to help the user’s memory, as well as entertainment in the form of music videos, photographs and games. Patients booked to see the doctor or nurse at Selwyn can interact with the medical centre’s on-site robot before their consultation.

Tubby Robot

"Tubby" - photo David White NZ Listener

One enthusiastic resident has named his robot “Tubby” which was apparently what he was called when he was younger.   And Tubby, as it happens, is rotund, standing about as tall as a domestic vacuum cleaner.

We have all heard and probably used the expression”the inmates are taking over the asylum” well now we can say with some truth “the robots are taking over the village”.