Thursday 12 December 2019

Robot Tessa reminds dementia patients to heat up their soup for lunch

Tessa the robot: Photo: Tinybots.nl

A robot which helps people with dementia remember what they should be doing and when will start a mass testing programme from this week.

Robots and sensors designed to help people live independently at home are considered by the Dutch health ministry to be key to combating the shortage of care workers.  And consultancy KPMG said last year that robots will be able to take over 30% of repetitive household chores within five years.

The Tessa robot was developed by Dutch robotics company Tinybots, which was launched in 2015. A successful pilot project involving 50 Tessas has been rounded off and now 500 robots have been released for use. Some 300 of them have been ordered in advance for the testing programme and 200 are still up for grabs.

‘The more research and tests we do, the more we see that a large group of people benefit from having a friend like Tessa,’ said Wang Long Li, one of Tinybot’s two founders. ‘Our dream is to give these people at home and abroad more control over their lives.’

Going for a walk

Care staff and family members can programme Tessa using a simple app or send messages via Tessa directly to the patient. The robot can be used to remind people when to have breakfast or to cook and to make suggestions about things to do, ,such as listening to music or going for a walk.

The NRC quoted the case of Toon van Santvoord, whose Tessa reminds him to eat and to take medication.  At 11.45, Tessa tells him to warm up soup for lunch. Thirty minutes later, the robot repeats the message just in case Toon has not reacted.’

‘Without Tessa, I cannot go away for a whole morning,’ Gertrude van Sandvoort told the paper. ‘My husband forgets I’m away. Even if i just go to the corner shop I make sure Tessa will remind him of what he needs. It works better than a note,’ she says.

A three-year subscription to Tessa costs €1 a day.

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