Social robotics on both sides of the scale: between commercial applications to addressing specific needs for older adults

Author: Mr Kasper Rodil STSM Period: 2018-10-15 – 2018-10-31


Hosting institution: University of Haifa. Faculty of Social Welfare & Health Sciences Department of Gerontology. Haifa, Israel.

From ITC: No



The aging of the world’s population poses new challenges for our society regarding health-care, social welfare, and residential systems. One of the growing concerns regards caring for the rapidly growing population of older adults, a burden that is met by family members as well as welfare agencies. As through the lifespan, the needs that people have in later adulthood are generated both by changes in physical capabilities and health as well as a need to address social and emotional needs.

As the burden of care on younger generations rises, recent years have seen a growing interest in the use of social robots by older adults. According to the International Journal of Social Robotics, «Social Robotics is the study of robots that are able to interact and communicate between themselves, with humans, and with the environment, within the social and cultural structure attached to its role.» (International Journal of Social Robotics. Retrieved 09-02-2018 from

As such, they have the potential to reduce loneliness and contribute to emotional well-being by serving as an ever-present companion. Among people over that age of 80, who are referred to as that oldest old, shrinking social networks and growing social isolation is prevalent. Widowhood, loss of peers to death and disease as well as health-related mobility difficulties all contribute to this experience.

For several years, together with advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), there has been a growth in the efforts invested in creating and introducing social robots to older adults. These efforts consist of commercial efforts aimed at introducing mass-produced social robots to the market such as ‘Jibo’, ‘Buddy’ and others. Products with great promise that is not fully realized. Commercial products are both late on the market as well as lacking in their functionality leading to a struggle in achieving their potential among older adults. Work done in the academic community has mostly been on a smaller scale. Harnessing robotics and AI to engineer solutions created to serve a specific person in a particular environment. These tailor-made solutions remain primarily at the prototype level and do not venture out of the lab on a larger scale.

This STSM will aim to explore this gap of scale that exists within this field by combining informational meetings with companies and commercial entities active in the Gerontech fields together with visiting the Gerontology Department at Haifa University. Visiting both industry and Israel has an emerging Gerontech community with several companies working on robotic and AI centered products for older adults. The challenges that this STSM addresses are in the space between Engineering, Computer Science (AI) and Social Sciences,

In line with the aim of this STSM and the objectives of WG2 on ICT, this STSM focuses on the introduction of social robotics in older adults’ homes. We aim to create a review of the state of the art status in the field of social robotics for older adults. This goal will be achieved by combining scholarly literature with an investigation of the commercial activity in the field.

We propose to do a literature review on the tension field between on-market, generic robotic solutions for assisted living and more academic, bottom-up (often with an emancipatory design approach) robotic solutions addressing individual needs in the healthcare sector. An example of the latter is the Build-your-own-robot project (mentioned in the institutional support letter), with an in-press publication being presented by Kasper Rodil at the beginning of OCT 2018 at the 10th NORDICHI ( (reference at the end of STSM document).

Thus the proposed publication will continue this work with the Intl. Journal of Social Robotics as an intended outlet (

From this work, it is the intention to strengthen the collaboration between the research groups at Haifa University and Aalborg University by finding common ground for initiating projects together. This will instigate collaboration between two groups that have yet to work together and that come from different scientific disciplines. In addition, we hope that the work carried out in this STSM will serve as the foundation for broader collaboration throughout the WG, involving additional members in writing a grant for a larger research project.

This STSM will combine working with academia and industry.
Proposed informational meetings in addition to meetings with researchers at the Faculty of Social Welfare & Health Sciences include:
· Unipercare Technologies ·Intuition robotics ·Ageculture ·Mediterranean Towers Ventures · CDI Negev

The proposed STSM will last two weeks, the following is a draft depicting time allocation. Final plans will be made in coordinance with the involved parties.
Day 1: Haifa U. – orientation and meetings with research staff
Day 2: Haifa U. – continued meetings with research staff, lab and library time
Day 3: Tel Aviv – visiting companies
Day 4: Tel Aviv – visiting companies
Day 5: Haifa U. – report & paper writing
Day 6: Technion University, Haifa. Lab visit
Day 7: Beersheva – visiting companies
Day 8: Jerusalem – visiting companies
Day 9: Haifa U. – report & paper writing
Day 10: Haifa U. – report & paper writing


Rodil, K, Rehm, M & Krummheuer, AL 2018, Co-designing Social Robots With Cognitively Impaired Citizens. in Proceedings of NordiCHI2018. In press.

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