Unique robot cat enhances quality of life among people with dementia

Feb 20, 2013 | Research/Cooperation

Researchers at Mälardalen University (MDH) have developed the robot cat Robocat to enhance the wellbeing and raise the quality of life among people with dementia in the later stage of their illness. The interactive and artificial cat is unique through an interweaving of the fields of the caring sciences and technology.

– The aim of Robocat is to enrich the daily lives of elderly people, and particularly those with dementia, by enhancing their mental, physical and social wellbeing, says Christine Gustafsson, initiator of Robocat and Senior Lecturer in the Caring Sciences at MDH.

The background to the project is that there is no treatment today that can cure dementia. Research into dementia disorders focuses on care and nursing to improve wellbeing for persons who in different ways are affected by the illness. Alternative forms of treatment such as singing, art and pets are advocated. The design of Robocat enables the contamination regulations to be abided by and it constitutes an alternative to bringing a live pet into a healthcare environment.

– Robocat has the appearance, weight and construction of a cat, and catlike behaviour. For example it can purr and react to different types of handling, which was appreciated during the pilot studies carried out at one of Attendo’s special homes in Eskilstuna for people with dementia. In one of the studies we have tested what can be measured regarding possible effects of the robot cat, and the results show tendencies towards the quality of life being enhanced and the outward behaviour symptoms decreasing, says Christine Gustafsson.
There is a big interest on the market in the technical innovation Robocat, which is going to be launched during 2013. The robot cat also constitutes an important technical aid in healthcare in the future.
– In the future perspective people will to various extents be getting technical aids for themselves and their relatives for a better and perhaps more secure everyday life. Robocat is one example of technology which could constitute such an important tool in healthcare in the future, says Lars Asplund, initiator of Robocat and Professor of Robotics at MDH.

The Robocat project was started by Christine Gustafsson and Lars Asplund within MDH’s prominent research area of Care and Technology during 2011.  The cooperation partners are the City of Västerås and Eskilstuna Municipality through the Social Contract, along with MDH’s Idélab, Robotdalen and one of Attendo’s special homes in Eskilstuna.