Robot which can have a conversation could improve mental health in care home residents

The robot can learn about the people it has a conversation with Credit: University of Bedfordshire

A University of Bedfordshire study has been trialling using robots to talk to residents in care homes.

The study has found that people who spoke to the robots regularly over a two week period saw a significant improvement in their mental health.

The robots, developed at the University of Genova in Italy, are known as 'culturally competent', which means they can engage with the people they speak to on topics like history and religion. They can also retain information about the people they speak to for use in future conversations.

The University of Bedfordshire's Dr Chris Papadopoulos, the lead author of the study, said there's a chance robots could make a real difference to residential care in the future.

He said: "This study is ground-breaking because it is the largest ever investigation into the use of autonomous social robots for older adults in care settings.

"The results show that using artificial intelligence in robots...has real potential benefit to a world that is witnessing more people living longer with fewer people to look after them.

"Poor mental health and loneliness are significant health concerns and we have demonstrated that robots can help alleviate these."

Researchers have collaborated with Advinia, which runs 36 care homes in the UK, to test the robots.

The company's founder praised the impact the study had had so far.

Dr Sanjeev Kanoria said: "This is the only Artificial Intelligence that can enable an open ended communication with a robot and a vulnerable resident.

"We are working towards implementing this into routine care of vulnerable people to reduce anxiety and loneliness and provide continuity of care.

"The robot was tested in Advinia's care homes in the UK. Now we are working towards bringing the robot into routine care, so it can be of real help to older adults and their families."