Meet the Project Team

Frank Foerster

(Principal Investigator)

Senior Lecturer in HRI at the University of Hertfordshire

Krystal Warmoth

Senior Research Fellow at the University of Hertfordshire

Oya Celiktutan

Senior Lecturer in Robotics, Machine Learning and Affective Computing at King's College London

Isaiah Durosaiye

Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield

Chengzhi Peng

Senior Lecturer in Design Studies and Architectural Computing at the University of Sheffield

Alex Aylward

PPI Participant

Project Summary

This project will perform early-stage research with older adults affected by loneliness as well as caregivers, and social workers to assess the acceptability and feasibility of older adults affected by loneliness and social isolation to host and interact with social robots in their homes.

Loneliness and feeling cut off from other people can be a real problem for many of us as we get older. We know it can lead to depression and a decline in physical health and wellbeing, but sometimes it can be difficult for any of us to reach out to people and get involved in

social activities.

One idea for connecting people that’s been tried with young people living alone in Korea involves having a robot in your home that listens for sounds of activities, such as cooking or switching on the TV, and then sends a message to robots in your friends’ or neighbours’ homes. If you switch on the TV, for example, their robot might tell them that one of their friends – without saying who – has just put on the TV: I wonder what programme they are watching? If they’re interested or if they have time to chat, they can press a button on their robot to let you know that someone else is out there and has heard what you’re doing. Then if you’ve got time, maybe you can give them a phone call or send a text message – it’s up to you. The key idea is that it lets us know that we’re not alone and gives us opportunities for getting in touch, based on our everyday activities.

Of course, not everyone would want such a robot and it raises issues around privacy and security, and we don’t know whether it would work with older people in the UK. In the first instance, the CATLYP project is going to bring together some older people and ask them what they think of the idea and, if they like it, what the robot might look like, how it would behave and the sort of things it might listen for. Then, if there’s enough enthusiasm, we’ll see whether it works by giving robots to a few volunteers, and build up towards doing a proper experiment to see whether it really does make people feel less lonely.