Ontario universities McMaster and Ryerson are partnering to kickstart the “Smart Robots for Health Communication” project, a joint research initiative designed to study how robotics and artificial intelligence can help in clinical health care.
Specifically, the project involves the analysis of physical and virtual human-robot interactions to teach healthcare professionals how to better understand patient behaviour.
The project is a collaboration between David Harris Smith, professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster, Hermenio Lima, professor of medicine at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and Frauke Zeller, professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson.
To help with the project, the researchers will use Softbank’s humanoid robot assistant Pepper and IBM Bluemix Watson Cognitive Services to study health information exchange using “a state-of-the-art human-robot interaction system.” Pepper is 4-foot (1.2-metre) with large expressive eyes and lifelike movements and gestures, which carries touchscreen tablet for users to interact with it.
As of last month, Pepper has also started to be used in Canadian business, with the robot being introduced in select Alberta banks.
“This partnership is a testament to the collaborative nature of innovation,” said dean of FCAD, Charles Falzon, in a press release. “I’m thrilled to support this multidisciplinary project that pushes the boundaries of research, and allows our faculty and students to find uses for emerging tech inside and outside the classroom.”
“This project exemplifies the value that research in the Humanities can bring to the wider world, in this case building understanding and enhancing communications in critical settings such as health care,” said McMaster’s dean of Humanities, Ken Cruikshank.
IBM Canada and research and development consortium SOSCIP will also assist the researchers by giving access to research staff and other resources in Ontario.