People often tend to forget where they’ve kept their phones or glasses. Now researchers have developed a novel robot programmed with artificial memory that can help find the lost objects.
According to the team from the University of Waterloo in Canada, the robot may particularly help people with dementia.
“The long-term impact of this is really exciting,” said Dr. Ali Ayub, a postdoctoral researcher in electrical and computer engineering at the varsity.
“A user can be involved not just with a companion robot but a personalised companion robot that can give them more independence,” he added.
Ayub and three colleagues were struck by the rapidly rising number of people coping with dementia, a condition that restricts brain function, causing confusion, memory loss and disability.
Many of these individuals repeatedly forget the location of everyday objects, which diminishes their quality of life and places additional burdens on caregivers.
Engineers believed a companion robot with an episodic memory of its own could be a game-changer in such situations. And they succeeded in using artificial intelligence to create a new kind of artificial memory.
The research team began with a Fetch mobile manipulator robot, which has a camera for perceiving the world around it.
Next, using an object-detection algorithm, they programmed the robot to detect, track and keep a memory log of specific objects in its camera view through stored video.
With the robot capable of distinguishing one object from another, it can record the time and date objects enter or leave its view.
Researchers then developed a graphical interface to enable users to choose objects they want to be tracked and, after typing the objects’ names, search for them on a smartphone app or computer.
Once that happens, the robot can indicate when and where it last observed the specific object.
Tests have shown the system is highly accurate. And while some individuals with dementia might find the technology daunting, Ayub said caregivers could readily use it.
Moving forward, researchers will conduct user studies with people without disabilities, then people with dementia.
The study was presented at the recent 2023 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.