Myongji Hospital, a tertiary healthcare institution in South Korea’s Gyeonggi Province, is developing an AI-driven care robot to assist patients with dementia. 

The AI robot called “PIO” will be developed as part of a recently-signed technology development agreement with Whydots, a local robot maker.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

The PIO robot, which resembles a parrot, aims to stimulate attachment and emotions in early dementia patients. It has a camera that recognises its user’s face and facial expressions and is able to express emotions through its LED eyes and body movements. 

In its development, Myongji will contribute its experience and clinical data of dementia patients accumulated from the Baekse-chongmyung School, which runs the hospital’s community-based dementia management programme. The hospital will also craft cognitive intervention content.

WHY IT MATTERS

According to a press statement, PIO can help relieve depression and improve users’ emotional stability and cognitive ability. An initial trial of the technology early this year found that it helped improve the emotional condition and mental ability of patients at the Baekse-chongmyung School. It also received high satisfaction from users. 

PIO is also expected to reduce the workload for nursing personnel by interacting with patients while supporting the management of their condition. 

THE LARGER TREND

Local governments in South Korea have provided companion robots to single persons and those who are living with mental health issues to support their well-being. The government of Chungnam Province, for one, is currently trying out AI-based care robots, which have been deployed to help communicate with single residents and people living with mental health issues as part of its suicide prevention efforts. The Gwanak district in Seoul followed suit by deploying the AI robot called Channy to serve as a personal companion for single adults in their community.

ON THE RECORD

South Korea’s senior population is fast growing, making up about 16% of the total population or 8.53 million last year. According to Statistics Korea, this rising trend could continue, possibly reaching around 13 million in 2030 and 17 million in 2040. By 2050, people aged 65 and older will potentially account for over 40% of the entire population. 

“As the number of dementia patients is expected to increase due to the rapid ageing of the population, proper and effective treatment and management of dementia is urgently needed,” said Myongji Hospital Director Kim Jin-gu. 

He added that the Myongji Hospital will continue to develop technology and produce content for dementia-friendly AI care robots with its know-how and expertise acquired from operating the Baekse-chongmyung School.

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