Design recommendations for socially assistive robots for health and social care based on a large scale analysis of stakeholder positions
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Objectives Socially assistive robots (SAR) may have an important role in health and social care. Design of such SAR can be informed through detailed studies with end-users, but we also need shared understanding of SAR between developers and those influencing policy. We aimed to explore the acceptability of using SAR across a broad range of stakeholders who could influence policy and identify design considerations for developers. Methods We gave live demonstrations of a range of SAR rather than passive materials such as pictures, and used an acceptability model (Almere Model) as framework for analysis. Eight exhibitions involved live demonstrations and interaction with two robot animals (Paro and Miro), a humanoid (Pepper) and function-oriented telepresence robot (Padbot). 223 health and social care professionals, service users and small companies participated. Unstructured free interactions with robots were video recorded, transcribed, and content analysed. Themes were mapped onto the Almere Model of acceptability where components and design recommendations deduced. Results Three-quarters of attendees interacted with robots (n=167). Practical design changes identified were: (i) improved mobility for uneven floors and carpets, (ii) improved voice recognition and accent interpretation, (iii) better ease of use (mainly Pepper), (iv) enhanced robustness and battery life/autonomous charging, (v) soft, friendly aesthetics, (vi) anthropomorphic or biomorphic design (non-robotic) for friendliness and social presence, (vii) androgynous appearance. Conclusion Health and social care stakeholders are open to use of SAR and see potential in this field, however, practical issues such as robustness, battery life, voice/accent recognition and mobility need to be addressed.