Essex town to deploy humanoid robot to help deliver services
A humanoid robot – dubbed Pepper – is to be used in the delivery of social care in Southend-on-Sea.
The Essex town’s council has acquired the “child-sized” robot under an academic licence, and intends to use it in settings including residential facilities and sheltered housing. Pepper could be used to help run a reminiscence group with people suffering from dementia, the council claimed, or provide assistance with rehabilitation exercises for those recovering from strokes.
The robot may also be stationed in buildings to provide information to residents, staff, and visitors. The device will also be taken to local schools to try and instil in children an interest in working in social care.
The council said that Pepper (pictured below right) will not be used to administer any personal one-on-one care. Nor, it added, will the technology replace human employees.
- Southend turns to technology to help citizens self-manage long-term conditions
- Don’t fear the robots – tech automation to have less impact on public sector jobs, report claims
- MoD and Home Office put £1.6m into robot and drone projects for hazardous environments
Lesley Salter, executive councillor for health and adult social care, said: “I have met Pepper and he is very cute, kind, engaging and learning all the time. He is an amazing addition to our equipment team and I really think he will be both popular and successful with staff and our local community, both young and old. I am very proud that Southend-on-Sea is leading the way, and we are all so excited to see what Pepper, and this technology in general, can do for our services, and help us meet the well-known challenges that the social-care sector faces.”
Sharon Houlden, Southend-on-Sea’s director of adult services and housing, claimed that introducing robotics technology into the council’s work is something that has been “on the agenda for some time”.
“This is also about exploration and pushing the boundaries,” she said. “Whilst the sector has talked about this technology for some time now, we are ambitious and confident enough in Southend-on-Sea to make the first move and become the first local authority to trial this technology. We are convinced that digital technology is where the future lies for social care, and we would be delighted to explore this further with other innovative partners.”