Earlier this month, the university launched its Contextual Robotics Institute, a multi-disciplinary effort to develop robotic technology with artificial intelligence that can be used to help the country's growing elderly population "age in place."
Rajesh Gupta -- professor and chair of the computer science and engineering department at UC-San Diego -- said the new institute's work is unique in that it draws heavily on cognitive sciences with the goal of developing robots that can read emotions and respond to people more like humans.
The field of robotics is growing at a rapid pace. Universities and technology companies are working on self-driving cars, robots that can clean hotel rooms and a wide range of other robotic applications.
Until now, Gupta said, robotics have focused primarily on mechanical functions, such as driving, flying, or manufacturing.
"So, all robotics in the past have been with machines that have stiff joints, things which are mechanically strong," he said.
"When it comes to interaction with humans, most robotic machines are too stiff or too autistic. They don't really make a distinction between what you're thinking or feeling," Gupta said.
UCSD's new institute will bring together experts in the fields of engineering, computer and social sciences to develop machines that Gupta said will be able to recognize their environment, understand the context of a situation and synthesize the information to take the appropriate action.
To be useful in a home setting, he said, "The robot has to be able to sense things, not necessarily be told to do everything."As most seniors prefer to 'age in place' robotics will play an increasing role for assisted or independent living. The possibilities are enormous, however there are limits.
The Graying of America
The country is aging fast.
Each day in the U.S., 10,000 people turn 65. By the year 2030, 18% of the nation will be at least 65 years old, according to population projections by the U.S. Census Bureau.
What's more, a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that one in 20 people over the age of 65 is homebound in the U.S.
As our country ages, the needs of older adults interested in remaining independent and at home multiply. So too do the business opportunities for researchers and entrepreneurs creating products and services that can monitor and even treat health issues at home.
As a result, robotics and other technologies for older adults and their caretakers is a rapidly growing field.
A recent report by AARP found that the sum of all economic activity serving the needs of Americans over age 50 -- known as the "longevity economy" -- represents more than $7 trillion, a number expected to reach well over $13.5 trillion by 2032.
California Researchers Eye Robots To Help People Age at Home - iHealthBeat