How Robots will Ease the Burden on Healthcare

Contact between human and robot

I ducked into Costa Coffee yesterday for a quick grande latte. It’s my coffee of choice. To be honest with you, the coffee isn’t amazing compared it to the brews I used to get in Melbourne, but it’s drinkable.

When I go to any coffee shop, I will often take my laptop with me. I don’t like writing when I’m in a cafe, but sometimes I can’t help it. I’m always on, and a coffee shop is a great place to watch, observe and…ashamedly, eavesdrop.

Note: if I’m sitting behind you in a coffee store, I’m partially listening in on your conversation. Sorry, can’t help it.

Anyway, yesterday, as I was enjoying my grande latte, a dear little old lady asked if she could sit in the seat next to me. She just wanted to have a coffee and read her paper.

I had no problem with that, of course. She was in her 80s, I’d say. And she used one of those mobility walkers to get around. Not the powered ones, but the kind with handles and grip brakes…

It was clear she was having a bit of trouble sitting down, so I helped her into her chair.

And then I got thinking. What if I wasn’t here? I’d assume someone else would have come over to help her. But she was certainly the proud type and wasn’t about to ask for help. And if someone didn’t help her, she would have battled to sit down. She probably would have got there in the end. But it would have been quite the effort.

Her walker was a rudimentary device. I’d go so far to even call it analogue. I wondered about all the elderly people out there battling day to day with basic tasks we take for granted in our youth.

Sitting and standing, going to the bathroom, getting out of bed…these are all tasks we take for granted. We often do them subconsciously, on autopilot.

But not for everyone. And in today’s high-tech world, I ask myself what is the technology that people need the most? This analogue walker of my coffee shop neighbour was so out of date it was almost cruel. Where’s her automated, robotic helper? Where’s the tech to help her get around as though she were 20 years younger?

It’s certainly not here yet. But this kind of tech is close. It will soon hit the market soon, and it will have a real impact on millions of lives.

By the time I get to my 80s, I thoroughly expect not to need biological limbs to get around. I’ll be half cyborg. But that’s 50 years away.

The tech I’m referring to will seem basic compared to cyborgs, but the impact it could have will be powerful today.

We all benefit from robots helping the elderly

After my encounter in the coffee shop, I looked into the issue. Sure enough, just a few weeks ago a Japanese startup, RT Works, unveiled a new robotic walker. The simple aim of the robotic device is to help the elderly move about more freely. And it’s exactly the kind of device my coffee house neighbour could use.

It might look like a bog standard walker. But it’s not. It has six-axis motion sensors in it. These sensors automatically trigger motors to help push the cart up a hill or slow it down on a decline. It’s got built in GPS to relay location to care givers or family. As CEO Sei Kohno says, ‘The motorized functions of this walker can also help users walk farther without tiring, which helps them have a more independent lifestyle.’

This device is just one of many that will come to market in the next few years. There’s big opportunity here for robotics makers. The United Nations estimate the population over age 65 worldwide will increase 181% between 2010 and 2050, compared to a 33% increase in the 15 to 65 demographic.

There’s going to be a massive need for automated assistance in aged care. There aren’t enough care workers to help everyone, so the only option is to provide robotic, automated systems.

A Korean company, Yujin Robot, already makes a system that can navigate around a hospital or care facility to deliver meals. It might not look fancy, or even like a robot, but it serves a very important purpose and offers greater efficiency in helping people who need it most.

Source: The Robot Report

Think about the potential of adding in other technologies to the Yujin robot. For example, if you add a screen and teleprescence, you might be able to login from halfway around the world to have dinner with Grandma.

Robotics has huge potential. It’s already finding its way into hospitals and care facilities. Soon enough it will be in our homes. And that’s where the benefits really kick in. People will be able to live independent lives for longer with help around the house. Care facilities and hospitals will have less burden, as people will be able to manage on their own with home assistant robotics.

The flow on benefits of these technologies is world changing. Not only will home robotics help improve quality of life, but it will positively impact the broader economy, as there will be less burden on healthcare systems.

Robotics is here, and it’s going to change everything.

Sam Volkering
Technology Analyst, Revolutionary Tech Investor

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Sam Volkering
Sam is Editor for Money Morning and it's small-cap and technology analyst. He spends his time hunting down the most exciting stocks on the planets, whether they’re potential-packed volatile small-caps or tech firms transforming our future through cutting-edge technologies. You can find more of Sam’s work over at Australian Small-Cap Investigator, where he shares the best small-cap stocks he finds on the ASX, or at Revolutionary Tech Investor where he reveals the latest breakthrough tech investment he’s discovered.

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