Robots with artificial intelligence may one day help alleviate the loneliness epidemic, a new report from researchers at Auckland, Duke, and Cornell Universities suggests. The report proposes that AI-enhanced companion robots could one day help us alleviate one of the epidemics of the new century: loneliness. Researchers conducted a study to establish the impact on physical health and loneliness of such companions, and they appear to be very effective.
The report, according to Duke Today, maps some of the ethical considerations for governments, policy makers, technologists, and clinicians, and urges stakeholders to come together to rapidly develop guidelines for trust, agency, engagement, and real-world efficacy. These types of robots could help older people not only by keeping them company, but also with certain tasks, and previous research indicates that these types of robots have had a positive impact.
Robots are a solution for the millions of isolated people who have no other solutions.Murali Doraiswamy, Professor of Psychiatry and Geriatrics, Duke University
“Right now, all the evidence points to having a real friend as the best solution,” said Murali Doraiswamy, professor of Psychiatry and Geriatrics at Duke University and member of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. “But until society prioritizes social connectedness and eldercare, robots are a solution for the millions of isolated people who have no other solutions.”
Previous studies point out that the number of Americans without close friends has quadrupled since 1990, implying increased loneliness and social isolation. Loneliness could affect the health of almost 1/3 of the world’s population, and the consequences include increased risk of mental health, obesity, dementia and even premature death. It can be very difficult for adults to make new friends, but having a companion robot backed by artificial intelligence could be a potential solution to compensate for loneliness.
The aging of the world’s population will make loneliness the new epidemic of the century. These robots may be able to prevent it. Artificial intelligence is advancing by leaps and bounds, which is why a multitude of technology companies are creating robots to help us in times of exploration, to avoid dangers, to make our lives easier and to explore planets, but those that could be in all our homes could also be our best friends. Future Market Insights predicts that complementary healthcare robots will reach a market value of more than $11 billion between 2023 to 2033.
“With the right ethical guidelines,” the authors conclude in their report, “we may be able to build on current work to use robots to create a healthier society.”