Tool, Toy or Therapist? the Relevance of Emotion Stimulating Robots in Elderly Health Care

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Michaela PFADENHAUER , Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany
Our main interest is the professional use of “social assistive robots” (Kolling et al. 2013). We call them “emotion simulating & stimulating robots” as they are designed to fulfill „experiential aspects of belonging“ (Klein et al 2013).  Our empirical subject is the baby harp seal Paro developed by AIST, a leading Japanese industrial automation pioneer. Whereas this as interactive robot with highest therapeutic effect” praised machine is getting usual in Japanese private households, in Germany it slowly finds it way into Elderly Health Care Institutions. According to that we are interested how the robot becomes embedded in the carer-resident-relationship.

To which aim use carer the robot in their caring activities and routines? Which meaning is transferred with this special usage? Not only the singular performance but also the object with which the action is carried out is a carrier of meaning. However, not only the subjective sense but also the objective meaning of people, places, actions and material things recurs to interpretation (and interpreters). In terms of sociology of knowledge we are interested in the process of objectivation and institutionalization of technical artefacts which is embedded in the communicative processes of the distribution of knowledge. The robot as an in fact impressive technical artefact neither is a social actor or a “sociofact” but an integral and powerful part of social action with the potential to change culture (i.e. of Caring). According to that and in regard to the zoomorphic design of Paro which looks like a pet toy we are especially interested in the haptic use of Paro. As touch and tactility is referred to as special need of the elderly and persons with dementia the impact of this technology may lay in a climate change of the Caring Culture.