Designing a Socially Assistive Robot to Preserve the Dignity of Older Adults
population of older adults worldwide is expected to double between 2025 and 2050,
whereas the total population is projected to grow only 34% over the same period. Many of
these older adults prefer to age in place, to remain independent and living in their
homes. However, many older adults need regular assistance to manage the activities
necessary for independent living. With the... read morelikely decrease in availability of healthy
adults to assist in the care of older adults, there will likely be a growing gap between
the need for assistance and the availability of assistance. These population trends are
at least in part responsible for a growing interest in developing social robots that can
assume some of the responsibilities and workload of human caregivers. However, in
addition to benefiting humans, these robots also have the potential of impinging upon
the dignity and autonomy of the person being assisted. To address this challenge, I have
proposed the RSA Framework for designing and evaluating socially assistive robots for
older adults. Each component of this framework - Robot, Self, and Alliance - takes a
human-centric approach that prioritizes the perspective of the person being assisted.
The rest of my dissertation then addresses each of these components. I present my work
on a robot architecture, an approach to varying assistance to support feelings of the
self, and relational behaviors that the robot may use to build rapport and facilitate
the development of an alliance. In the robot architecture, I introduce a multi-level
verification of goals and actions that restricts the robot from pursuing forbidden goals
and selecting actions that may cause harm (physical or otherwise). Also, the
architecture has a mechanism to select an appropriate assistance for the robot to
provide based on the need of the person that the robot is assisting. This mechanism is
designed to support the autonomy of the individual while providing assistance on an
important activity for independent living. I demonstrate this architecture with a robot
that assists a person with sorting medications. The robot observes a person sorting
medications, infers who much assistance the person needs to continue to make progress on
the activity, and provides assistance that matches this need. Lastly, I present my work
on developing human-robot rapport using relational behaviors the robot performs to
influence the human experience of rapport with the robot. In evaluating the relational
behaviors in the context of a robot administering a personality survey, I found that a
robot that is more engaging and provides verbal acknowledgment improves the experience
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of Computer Science.
Advisor: Matthias Scheutz.
Committee: Linda Tickle-Degnen, Robert Jacob, Jan de Ruiter, and Candace Sidner.
Keywords: Robotics, Artificial intelligence, and Occupational therapy.read less