Study «Robotics and autonomous devices in social and health care»
Robotik in Betreuung und Gesundheitsversorgung. Study of the Centre for Technology Assessment, Heidrun Becker, Mandy Scheermesser, Michael Früh, Yvonne Treusch, Holger Auerbach, Richard Alexander Hüppi, Flurina Meier, Zürich, vdf, 252 p., CHF 39.--/ EUR 34.--, ISBN 978-3-7281-3520-9 (print edition) / Download open access. vdf Hochschulverlag AG
What is robotics?
Robots have been widely used in industry for some time. They perform routine tasks, e.g. in the assembly of automobiles. These industrial robots do not correspond to the image of humanoid metallic “beings” that often spring to mind when one talks about robots – they are actually machines which very efficiently perform stages of the production process that used to be done by human beings. If in the future robots or autonomous devices are going to be handling tasks in the social sector as well, it is not so much about increasing efficiency, but more about supporting and supplementing a human workforce.
Opportunities and risks of autonomous devices and robots
In nursing care and rehabilitation, looking after elderly people, and also children, it is predicted that there will be shortages of human resources in the industrialised countries. The spectrum of possible applications of robots and autonomous devices in these areas is very broad. It ranges from training robots that are used in rehabilitation and service robots for the household to «electronic soft toys» which react to tactile stimuli and are already used in retirement homes in Japan. Systems for supporting people who need nursing care will possibly enable elderly people in future to remain in the home they are familiar with for longer and to put off going into an old people’s home. But where is this trend leading? Is it a lead-in to the mechanisation of areas such as care for the elderly, in which up to now a human counterpart has always been essential?
Why conduct a TA-SWISS study on this subject?
There are a great many unresolved questions, such as with regard to the suitability of the devices in everyday situations and the impact on those concerned – whether these are the people who are served or looked after by a robot, or workers in an institution which uses robots and autonomous devices.
Objectives of the study
The interdisciplinary study will analyse the opportunities and risks of robotics and the use of autonomous devices in the areas of care, rehabilitation, nursing and therapy, using the most realistic possible future scenarios. Special interest will be focussed on provision for elderly people. Both the institutional (homes, hospitals, medical practices) and the domestic environment will be considered. The following questions are among those that will be investigated:
Which applications exist already, for which are prototypes being tried out, and what conceivable fields of application are there for the future? What is the situation regarding the suitability of the devices in everyday life?
- Where is there a need for automation? Which actors and interest groups are behind the aim of delegating services previously performed by human beings to robots? To what extent do cultural backgrounds determine their acceptance in different areas?
- Is automation a practical solution? Is there a danger of jobs being cut in the social sector? Will robots supplant human beings, who are not highly trained but often perform emotionally demanding tasks, e.g. in nursing care?
- Is the advance of robots into the social sector acceptable from an ethical point of view? Or are there grounds for protecting a particular sector in which social interaction and emotions are important from mechanisation?
- How far should the pre-programmed autonomy of a robot be allowed to go without creating problems in terms of security? In this context the legal situation is important, and questions of liability should be discussed here.
- What economic potential is there, e.g. for the manufacturers of such devices? And what about costs – in this respect it is not only the purchase of the devices but also maintaining them that is important.
- Finally, the situation will be analysed in an overall assessment. Based on this, recommendations will be formulated on how to deal with the problem, and this will be directed at decision makers, and in particular at politicians.
The study will be conducted in 6 stages:
- Actual status analysis: Analysis of literature on current developments and prototypes, and on the use of robots and autonomous devices in practice.
- Environmental analysis: Survey of macro trends according to the “PESTEL” factors: Political, Economic, Sociocultural, Technological, Environmental and Legal analysis.
- Analysis of needs: Consultation with actors in focus groups with regard to need, requirements and fears.
- Reflection and evaluation: Consultation with experts on technology (feasibility), economics (viability), society, ethics and law.
- Preparation of an overall impact report, analysis of opportunities and risks, possibly in the form of scenarios.
- Formulation of recommendations for various target groups.
Project start: june 2011| completion: autumn 2012
Results and downloads
Abridged version of the TA-SWISS study
RoboCare - Healthcare in the robot age
* The lovely pancake flipping robot figuring the programme flyer is called Rosie and has been developped by the CoTeSys Central Robotics Laboratory CCRL, Technische Universität München (www.cotesys.org/research/our-robots/)
- Centre for Technology Assessment TA-SWISS
- Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI
- Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences SAHS
- Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences SAMS
TA-SWISS Project Supervisors
- Dr. Adrian Rüegsegger, TA-SWISS. E-Mail
- Dr. Heidrun Becker, School of Health Professions, Zurich University of Applied Sciences ZHAW (Project Manager)
- Dr. Holger Auerbach, Winterthur Institute of Health Economics WIG, ZHAW
- Richard Alexander Hüppi, School of Engineering, ZHAW
- Mandy Scheermesser, School of Health Professions, ZHAW
- Prof. Dr. Daniel Gygax, University of applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (chairman of supervisory group)
- Sibylle Ackermann Birbaum, Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences A+
- Prof. Dr. Hannes Bleuler, EPF Lausanne
- Dr. Katrin Crameri, Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences SAMS, Basel
- Janine Graf, Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI, Berne
- Bea Heim, National Councillor, Social Democratic Party, Canton Solothurn
- Prof. Dr. François Höpflinger, University of Zurich
- Prof. Dr. Annemarie Kesselring, University of Basel
- Dr. med. Pedro Koch, Senior Health Consultant, Küsnacht
- Prof. Dr. Sabine Maasen, University of Basel
- Dr. Jürg Müller, Legal Services University Hospital Basel
- Thomas Müller, Journalist Radio DRS, Basel
- Prof. Dr. Pasqualina Perrig-Chiello, University of Berne
- Prof. Dr. Robert RienerETH Zurich
- Dr. Markus Zürcher, Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences SAHS, Berne
- Prof. Dr. Giatgen Spinas, University Hospital Zurich
- Prof. Dr. Gábor Szekely, Commission for Technology and Innovation CTI, Berne
Roboter von morgen: dein Freund und Helfer Wissenschaft im Gespräch
A radio broadcast in German of DRS 2
CH-3011 Bern T + 41 31 310 99 60
F + 41 31 310 99 61
The project in brief
Automation is progressively becoming a part of day-to-day life, and devices are becoming increasingly interactive. The loss of human contact because of machines such as cash dispensers, which obviate the need to go to the bank counter, seems to present few problems. But where social contacts are more important it is a different story. The study will therefore investigate the opportunities and consequences of robotics, or of autonomous devices in the areas of rehabilitation, nursing care and therapy.
Project: May 2011 to autumn 2012
Foto: Jens Kilian. Quelle: www.care-o-bot.de