Technology and Social Isolation

Is it possible for technology to play a role in helping individuals overcome social isolation?

The idea that robots can aid in the conquering of social isolation is not far fetched. “Robots” are quickly becoming a sort of ‘interactive carrier’, if you will, in helping individuals with learning and coping processes. Just within the last few months, we posted an entry about how robots are helping with the developmental growth and teaching of young children. Now, it seems, scientists and researchers in England are attempting to shed light on social isolation. Whether it’s sequestration due to a disorder or a handicap, these robots may make it easier for those to communicate with others and participate in social settings.

Unfortunately, many people do not acquire the ability to interact with others and find it almost debilitating to communicate in public spaces. Some are plagued with severe anxiety, and simply lack the skills or the mindset to be able to converse.

Psychologists and researchers want to look at “the social and technological aspects of being able to appear in public in proxy forms, via a range of advanced robotics platforms.” The project, entitled Being There: Humans and Robots in Public Spaces, will use a humanoid robot named ‘Nao’, and through him, they hope to understand and see just how useful robotics can be when it comes to the way individuals communicate in person and online. The team of researchers will be conducting their study through a “living laboratory” – and will use top of the line technology in order to see how people interrelate with those who are acting through a “robot representative”. The robot, Nao, will be controlled remotely. The controllers can see and speak through his eyes and mouth, all while guiding where he looks and moves.

Introducing Nao

Introducing Nao

Mark Levine, who is a professor at the University of Exeter, explains the ultimate goal of this study:

“Being able to interact with others in public space plays an important role in the well-being of individuals and societies. Sadly, many people are unable to do this…However, if a robot proxy can act for them – and can transmit back the full experience of being with others – we can help to reduce social isolation and increase civic participation.”

Quotes and additional information courtesy of http://www.ecnmag.com/news/2013/12/robot-representatives-open-doors-isolated

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