An unusual house guest has been helping a Wollongong retiree stay connected with his son and home care workers while giving him a glimpse of the future.
IRT Links Seaside retirement village resident David Robson, from NSW, has been sharing his home with a robot since last August, as part of a trial to see how the technology can help overcome isolation and access to care for home care clients.
The Ohmni telepresence robot - which Mr Robson has affectionately dubbed 'Bluey' - was loaned to the village by Canberra-based company Robots 4 Good.
The robot is a wheeled device that family and carers can remotely control to move around the home.
It has a wide-angle camera on a screen with a tilting neck giving the user a wider field of view than they would get using a handheld device or computer. It also doesn't require the resident to hold or press anything and auto-docks onto a charging station after calls.
Mr Robson's son Peter Robson can access the robot remotely in order to spend time with him and check on his father's welfare.
"Dad has been really stoked to have the robot," said Peter Robson.
"We've had a lot of fun with it. It follows him around his home and out onto the balcony where I can see the view that Dad is seeing. It's like having a window that looks right into Dad's world."
The robot can also be used to support the delivery of home care services, allowing providers to conduct care plan and budget reviews remotely, do daily wellness checks and detect falls. In the future, the robot could even be used for monitoring vitals and wound care.
David also tested out the robot with his IRT Home Care manager who conducted his annual home care review remotely via Bluey.
IRT Group Executive General Manager of Home Care, Ross Gallagher, says the pandemic has forced us to consider new ways of doing things, especially how we stay connected when we're required to stay physically distant.
"If you want to see what the future of ageing in place looks like, telepresence robots could well be part of it," Mr Gallagher said.
"The robot has applications from a social connectivity perspective and a caring perspective. We're really excited about it."