“One of our core values is ‘Love’,” said Andrew Stephenson, administrator at Riverwalk Post-Acute in Riverside, CA, “but that doesn’t mean it always has to come from a human.”
Some of the love at the 146-bed facility is now supplied by something non-human, in fact. About a month ago, Stephenson and his team decided to try out a companion robot named Robin. Stephenson said she has been everything staff and residents could have hoped for, inspiring plenty of emotional interactions since she moved in.
Robin, manufactured by Expper Technologies, joined Riverwalk in October not to lift heavy things, serve meals or clean. Instead, she is there to keep residents company. The combination of pandemic-induced quarantine isolation and the number of residents who simply don’t have friends or family to visit spurred the trial, said Stephenson.
“The reason I love Robin the Robot so much is that it solves that problem by engaging with residents in conversation, games and music as a way to give them social interaction and feel a sense of belonging and to help aid in their recovery while in my building,” he said.
“It’s incredible to see the residents interact with Robin. You can literally watch them go to a happy place while engaging with it, giving them even just five minutes away from their own life’s challenges.”
Stephenson said he recently asked Robin to go to the room of a newly admitted resident to play some classical music. The resident’s family had mentioned that she liked that genre.
“When I went down to the room to check on things, her daughter was there video-recording Robin playing her mother Mozart and they were both crying because of the emotional connection Robin had made through music,” said Stephenson. “The resident told Robin she loved her and asked Robin to come back the next day, which it did.”
Staff isn’t asked to do much to help Robin help residents. Plugged in to recharge overnight, Robin wakes in the morning and asks to be unplugged. Generally Robin runs autonomously in the building but the staff will point Robin to residents that might need a chat, said Stephenson.
Because Robin is powered by artificial intelligence that analyzes human emotion and interactions and is remotely monitored by a mental health specialist, it gets smarter the longer it’s in the building, Stephenson said. The trial will roll into a one-year agreement, Stephenson said.
“It remembers everyone’s names and tailors the conversation and activities specifically to their needs,” he said. “Robin obviously can’t replace the human interaction and hands-on care that our staff provides, but it’s another tool to help differentiate our building and our committed focus to providing the best care possible.”