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Hampshire trials robotic aids in care

21 July, 2020

Hampshire County Council, in partnership with Argenti Care Technology Partnership (Argenti), are to trial collaborative robots – or cobots – in the UK care sector.

Working with Japanese robotics developer Cyberdyne, the local authority is keen to explore how cobots could help with the physical demands faced by care sector staff. Already in use in Japan, cobots are worn around the lower back and actively support carers in moving objects or supporting people. Using electrodes, cobots can also detect electrical signals between the wearer’s brain and their muscles and convert this into motion.

The trial of cobots in Hampshire began in February and was quickly adapted in response to the COVID-19 crisis, with further investigation of how the aids could be used to help manage the challenges faced by care workers and informal carers who are supporting vulnerable people at this time.

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, the County Council’s executive member for adult social care and health, said the trial was about supporting care workers.

“While we don’t yet know the extent to which cobots will help transform the delivery of care, early results are very promising, and I am increasingly confident that we will see them play an important role in supporting our care workforce both now, and in the future,” said Cllr Fairhurst.

Steve Carefull, social care technology expert at PA Consulting, which is partnering Hampshire in the trial, said using a cobot had shown that care for a person with complex needs which may have previously required two carers working together, could, in some instances, be delivered effectively by a single individual.

“This not only alleviates some social distancing concerns but will also help to make the social care system more resilient,” said Mr Carefull.

“In Hampshire alone, it is estimated that an extra 6,000 people in caring jobs could be needed over the next five years. Now, more than ever is the moment to embrace new technology. Our hope is that cobots could support care workers with the more physically demanding aspects of care, freeing carers up to focus on other aspects of human care or care for another vulnerable person.”

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