"Sorry, what was your name again?” – How to use a Social Robot to simulate Alzheimer’s Disease and exploring the Effects on its Interlocutors
Time: Fri 2017-09-22 10.00 - 11.30
Lecturer: Maria Kanov
Location: Fantum, Lindstedsvägen 24, 5th floor
Machines are designed to be infallible, but what happens if they are suddenly struck by chronic mental decline such as dementia? In this research, a social robot has been transformed into a mild-stage Alzheimer’s patient. The ultimate goal is to use it as a training tool for caregivers and medical students, as well as to raise general awareness for the disease. In particular, the study aimed to identify how to simulate Alzheimer’s with a social robot and what the effects are on its conversation partners. Thanks to its properties, the back-projected robotic head Furhat proved to be an ideal candidate to adopt the role of Max. The sources of inspiration derived from interviews and observations. A Wizard of Oz setup enabled a conversation between the character and the user, who was given the task of asking about the robot’s life. To allow for in-between subject comparisons, the set of 20 participants was a mixture of medical and non-medical students, as well as people who knew someone with dementia closely and those who never met any. The experience was evaluated through pre- and post-interviews along with user observations. The results indicate that the patient simulation was convincing the users, leading them to treat the machine as a human being and develop an emotional bond to it. They remained patient in spite of the robot’s symptoms, which affirms its potential for educational use. After all, this project aims to inspire researchers to find solutions in unconventional ways.