Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nursebot Pearl, a Robotic Assistant for Older Adults (Video 5:21)

Meet Nursebot Pearl, a robot that will make you rethink your vision of how a caregiver can look and interact with you. Whenever I mention the use of robots for improving the quality of life of older adults, someone feels compelled to remind me that robots can’t replace people. I totally agree. But the reality is that people are living longer, and the population of older adults with ongoing health concerns continues to increase. Those living at home with chronic disorders are particularly in need of support that robotic technology can provide.

Several years ago, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie ‎Mellon University started the Personal Robotic Assistants for the Elderly project, an inter-‎disciplinary multi-university research initiative focused on robotic technology for the ‎elderly. The project goal is to develop mobile, personal-service robots that assist older adults suffering from chronic disorders in their everyday lives. Pearl continues to be researched and improved. The National Science Foundation funds her development.

A talking robot, Pearl’s face has interchangeable parts that display various emotions. Among many tasks, she can help seniors maintain their independence by reminding them about hygiene, medications, doctor’s visits, and other important information they might forget. She can send information remotely to caregivers and provide needed strength for manipulating objects. A major benefit for older adults living alone is the social interaction they can enjoy in her company.

Frances Shani Parker, Author


  1. AnonymousJuly 14, 2011

    This is really thinking outside of the box! Can you imagine the interaction with someone who has dementia? Scarry! It might be just as easy to ignor a robot as it is to ignor a family member. You can turn off a robot.

  2. Thanks for your comment. You have brought up an interesting point that is surprisingly inside the box. While each person is unique, depending on the degree of dementia, robot trials indicate that people with dementia can accept robots and even be amused by them. Entertainment robots have been used successfully for some time with patients who have dementia.

    Robots can be used to assist the caregiver with taking care of the patient with dementia. For example, robots can be programmed to answer the repetitious questions that some patients with dementia often ask.

  3. This is a really interesting concept, but I don't think a robot could ever really replace human care and the social aspect of it. It could be a really good complement to it though!

  4. You have stated nicely what robots are all about: good complements to good human care.

  5. The idea of robots is not a bad one... But maybe using technology to connect seniors with other people is the way to go. Here at Evangelical Homes of Michigan, we've spent the last year beta testing technology for seniors that are living on their own through our LifeChoices Continuing Care at Home program. It's called the Connect, and it's actually a touch-screen computer that allows the residents to communicate with other seniors, communicate with their individual counselor, work on memory skills, take daily health quizzes, and other features. It's helped the residents to connect with their counselor and other residents more easily. It's not quite a robot, but this technology will help seniors to live more independently. For more on the Connect, or to learn more about Evangelical Homes of Michigan, visit us at

  6. Hi

    This is really a wonderful thought, and true it is out of box thinking. To have a robot for the care of elder person in the home is like you will free of tension from the care taker in the home. people can interact and take help in each and every need. Once you have them, they are forever with them and you do not have to change them. They will listen to you and follow your orders faithfully.

  7. Amazing idea. So everyone can do their own work. But what if robot got some virus or battery issue etc. Can we trust them fully? If yes than that's amazing. Thank you for sharing this will look after your next post.