Healthcare and isolation
Technology is opening the door for more people to age in place (stay in their home) through the convergence of things like miniaturization, connectivity, tele-presence (holograms!) and self-driving cars. We saw and heard many examples of how technology is helping people avoid nursing homes. While adoption by patients and payers will be slow, this future is exciting. It will benefit healthcare networks and families, but it also comes with some new challenges such as isolation and loneliness. As a result, new products and services are being developed to address these issues. For example, Wen Dombrowski, a physician and technologist, talked about re-purposing sex robots to provide companionship and comfort. “This is the first time I ever thought about buying a sex robot for Grandma,” quipped an audience member.
Many of the robots on display were aimed at companionship. Lovot was designed to keep us company and make us feel good, and it did. "Lovot was born for one reason, to be loved by you," was the key phrase. Cute little buggers. Panasonic also had some playful robots at their exhibit. Turns out, large blinky eyes are key to reducing stress in humans. Sony is perfecting their robot dog, which was very doglike, playful, and also cute. So cute that people were on the ground playing with them.
Sony displayed a “tribe” of robots, each with their own personality. One liked to sing, another was kind of shy. They can look, listen, teach each other, and were in the process of learning language from each other and the people near them. Also strangely cute but no blinking eyes.
Our new reality
VR/AR/MR continues to push the immersive experience and includes all the senses into the experience. Walking the show makes you feel that Ready Player One is days away. Haptics, aromas, and physical rigs make the experience more real than reality. We saw someone try a LevioPOLE, which simulates flying. People on treadmills were running to move their video game avatar. While the new wireless VR headsets will likely expand the reach of VR, the leaders of mixed reality were more excited about the power of 5G and inconspicuous AR glasses to bring the “mirror world” to the masses.
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