Robots are eliminating job drudgery in hospitals, and as technology advances, they'll take on therapeutic roles, like helping autistic children, motivating teens with diabetes to exercise and keeping elderly Alzheimer's patients company.
But demand for health care is so great that robots are seen as key aides to resource-constrained health-care workers. The goal is to fill a hole that leaves many patients underserved and alone.
"We are particularly motivated by autism because the incidence is so high and so many children today are diagnosed with autism," said professor Maja Mataric, who leads a team at the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder. The National Autism Association says autism is the fastest growing yet most underfunded developmental disorder. This creates a great and growing demand for services that cannot be met by existing human resources.