After three decades of research on virtual humans, a visiting professor in Singapore has created “Nadine”, a human-like robot that she predicted would be able to serve as companions for the elderly in the future.
Looking much like her creator Nadia Thalmann, director of Nanyang Technological University’s Institute of Media Innovation, “Nadine” is capable of interacting with people as shown in the video. The humanoid has a software that allows it to show expressions, converse, and memorize human emotions. Child robots are also in its early development stage, with no prototype at the moment but are planned to be able to learn different languages, as well as play and supervise children much like how a nanny does.
Thalmann believes that patients would benefit from the constant presence and continuous interaction that a humanoid can provide and relieve the physical and mental undertaking of caring for the elderly.
Robot intervention has been present in the healthcare industry for decades and has doing menial jobs like assisting in the transferring and lifting of patients. However, the presence of a more sophisticated and advanced humanoids continues to pose as threat to hundreds of thousands of trained healthcare personnel, lessening the human to human interaction with patients. It also raises the question of its reliability in fulfilling the emotional needs of the elderly and children in an industry where human compassion is needed at its best.