For many of us science fiction aficionados, robots are either glittering humanoid shaped machines or entities with unparalleled artificial intelligence (J.A.R.V.I.S anyone?). However, in reality robots remarkably have the capacity to be much more than that. Baffled? Well, according to Dr Tan Yeow Kee, a Singaporean scientist at the Institute for Infocomm Research, the ‘Huggler’ is one such example of a robot that can conscientiously help the elderly in reducing depression. And, that’s not all; the design also has the practical ability to diagnose mental conditions such as dementia.
In what looks like a chimpanzee shaped soft toy, the internal working mechanism of the Huggler boasts of some hidden advanced features. In fact, the robot integrates several components like surface microphones installed in the head and around the body, complemented by a system of smartphone and speakers underneath. So, in essence, the Huggler has been envisaged as a credible conception that would reduce the workload of medical professionals like therapists, nurses and caregivers.
There is also certain degree of commercial viability associated with the whole scope. Some estimates give us encouraging figures like 40 per cent increase in productivity (along with lowering of costs) with the usage of robotic technology. According to Dr Yang Guilin of Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology –
We can also reduce the reliance on foreign workers and also skilled workers, thus we can reduce the manufacturing cost also. So finally, we can improve the competencies of the local SMEs through these technologies.