Companion robots to make you better

Ikki medical robots

Imagine an eight-year-old boy in an oncology ward drifting off to sleep to his mother’s voice reading his favourite bedtime story – yet she is at home 200km away. This comforting scenario is thanks to medical robots: specifically, a little penguin-shaped guy called ikki.

Ikki is a form of artificial intelligence which has been programmed as an ingenious portable companion robot and who is soon to be trialled in a major children’s hospital.

While undergoing months of treatment, these kids will have these little robots at their side to do neat things like play computer games and even to take and record their temperature.

It is one of the thousands of success stories in artificial intelligence (AI) and medical robots, a field of work that offers young minds a mix of creativity and challenge. Look around, it’s everywhere from Fitbits to self-drive cars.

And despite the ‘robots are coming’ hysteria of the ’90s and ’00s – this technology is creating as many jobs as it takes away, says PwC’s Ross Campbell.

“We are seeing the most rapid changes in work that we’ve ever seen, much faster than in the industrial revolution,’’ he says.

Ross reckons it comes down to personal choice: you can get anxious or you can get curious and grab the truckload of opportunities this shift will bring.

“Automation and robotics will take away the mundane, process-type work of calculating lots of data and will free you up to use that information in new and different ways,’’ he says.

AI application in everyday life is also really exciting and it will continue for generations to come.

“It’s almost going to be like play for this generation of students … working out what works and what doesn’t and seeing what you can do with it,’’ says Ross.

– Michele Tydd

Find out more ways robots are helping out kids here.

Heather Catchpole

Author: Heather Catchpole

Heather co-founded Careers with STEM publisher Refraction Media. She loves storytelling, Asian food & dogs and has reported on science stories from live volcanoes and fossil digs

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