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A Minnesota nursing home has become the first in the country to introduce robots to assist with the care of elderly residents.

A four-foot tall robot called Pepper and a two-foot tall robot called NAO made their debut this week at The Estates of Roseville.

Pepper is programmed with hundreds of jokes to interact with residents and remind them to eat and exercise. It is also programmed to react to their facial expressions and tone of voice. NAO meanwhile is programmed to lead group exercises at the home.

Their arrival is thanks to the work of researchers at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Professor Arshia Khan, whose research focus is on "biomedical and health informatics," programmed the robots to have the technology necessary to help improve care. The robots are equipped to assist residents with their emotional, physical, and cognitive health.

It's anticipated that more robots will be rolled out to other Monarch Healthcare Management care homes in the future, with Khan saying this is a major step in improving the quality of life for elderly people.

“I am extremely excited to be making history with my students by deploying humanoid robots in nursing homes to help care for our elderly,” Khan said in a statement. “This is a major step and the beginning in helping improve the quality of life of elderly and people affected with dementia using humanoid robots.”

The overall goal of this initiative is to aid the effort in helping people with early stage Alzheimer's disease to stay independent longer. Khan said researchers have been working for years to modify these machines for use in nursing homes, but the pace was especially picked up when the pandemic hit, isolating these residents inside their living spaces. It basically made it a "now or never" moment to make a difference with these robots to help pick back up on social interactions.

According to SoftBank Robotics, Pepper is programmed to know 15 languages. The website says Pepper has been adopted by over 2,000 companies around the world as "an assistant to welcome, inform and guide visitors in an innovative way."

Khan is working alongside graduate students on this project and has given praise for the partnerships that made this creation possible.

“Humanoid robots in helping elderly is the way to move ahead in caring for our elderly,” said Khan. “The growth in elderly population and simultaneous growth in the people affected with dementia, staff shortages and lack of people who can for our elderly is a problem that is growing exponentially. If we don’t look for alternative solutions and think outside the box our elders will suffer. Japan is way ahead of us and it’s time we in US caught up.”

Nursing homes in Japan have been using robots in nursing homes since early 2018.

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