Meet Garmi, a robot nurse and companion for Germany’s elderly population
As the world's population ages up, researchers believe robot assistants will be integral to society.
A group of researchers at the Munich Institute of Robotics and Machine Intelligence recently unveiled their new robo-helper, Garmi—named after Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a ski resort town home to the school’s unit specializing in geriatronics, a relatively new field developing cutting edge tech for elderly care. The office location isn’t an accident, either. Garmisch-Partenkirchen boasts one of Germany’s highest proportional senior populations.
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Somewhat resembling Honda’s Asimo on wheels, Garmi is currently in early prototype testing, but could one day soon offer a wide array of assistance for older patients in hospitals and nursing facilities. One day, they could simply work in one’s own home. Abdeldjallil Naceri, the lab’s lead scientist, likened deploying Garmi to installing ATMs around a town. “We can imagine that one day, based on the same model, people can come to get their medical examination in a kind of technology hub,” he told Agence France-Presse.
From there, doctors could remotely evaluate patients’ diagnostics, which could be particularly helpful for those living in secluded locations. In a lab demonstration, for example, researchers guided Garmi to a patient stand-in using joystick controls. Once properly positioned, the robot aide positioned a stethoscope to the subject’s chest, which then provided health data to the driver’s computer screen. Outside of medical facilities, Garmi could hypothetically be deployed in residences to offer personalized help, like opening bottles, serving meals, as well as facilitating video calls for families or in the case of emergencies.
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Rolling out such help is not without its challenges, as Garmi is far from the first attempt at developing effective robotic aids for elderly populations. Although Germany contains one of the world’s fastest aging populations, Japan has long attempted to solve its own elderly issues with robot help to mixed results, at best. Despite these hurdles, however, researchers such as Naceri believe Garmi and similar robots are absolutely necessary. “We must get there, the statistics are clear that it is urgent… must be able to integrate this kind of technology in our society,” Naceri said.
Correction 3/21/23: An earlier version of this post stated Asimo was made by Hyundai. It is made by Honda.