Global Innovation


International Collaborative ‘Healthbot’ Study

Publish Date: January  01,  2012

URL: International Collaborative ‘Healthbot’ Study

In November 2011, the University of Auckland launched a large-scale study of 31 ‘healthbots’ at Selwyn retirement village in Auckland, New Zealand. This study, which aims to make robots that are helpful assistants for older people and for their caregivers, is part of a unique joint research project between Uniservices of the University of Auckland and the Electronic and
Telecommunications Research Institute of Korea (ETRI).

The study at Selwyn, one of Australia’s largest retirement communities, evaluates five different types of robots: Friend, Guide, Paro, iRobiQ and Cafero robots and involves 100 residents and 100 staff. These mechanized health care assistants perform tasks including reminding its user to take medications, recording vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure, and
alerting nurses of a fall. With the main goal to increase the quality of life, reduce depression and improve the health of the older residents, these robots are also designed to increase social interaction. Placed in the cafe, medical center, hospital, in residents’ rooms, and in the communal spaces, the robots are used for skyping friends, checking current events, playing computer games and music videos.

Bruce MacDonald, Associate Professor of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Auckland and head of this local project explains that this Korean-New Zealand venture is a natural fit. “The two sides bring to the table their respective skills: the Koreans’ technological expertise and Auckland’s engineering, computer science, health information technology and health psychology talents.” Korea is experiencing the same challenges with an aging population as in New Zealand, but MacDonald adds, “In New Zealand we have a much better-developed system of caring for our elders.”

The healthbot study, funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Korean Government, is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

For more information, visit: