These companion robots can help people with dementia find lost phones, keys

Engineers at a Canadian university say they’ve found a new way to help people with dementia find medicines, phones and other necessities they tend to lose.

Using "artificial memory," researchers at University of Waterloo trained a Fetch mobile manipulator robot to detect, track and keep a log of objects in its camera view through stored video, the school said in a news release. They also created a graphic interface for users to choose the things they want tracked, then search for them on a smartphone app or computer.

From there, the robot can tell users when and where it last saw the missing object.


A Fetch robot, the same type robot used by researchers at the University of Waterloo (Getty Images)

"The long-term impact of this is really exciting," said Dr. Ali Ayub, one of the researchers. "A user can be involved not just with a companion robot but a personalized companion robot that can give them more independence."

READ MORE: Wendy's to test underground robot delivery for mobile orders

Ayub said tests have shown the system is "highly accurate," although admittedly some people with dementia may not be able to use the technology. Caregivers, however, could benefit greatly, researchers said, and they hope the technology could someday be used by anyone who frequently loses things, not just those with dementia.

The team recently presented their findings at the 2023 ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction.

The next step is for researchers to conduct user studies with people without disabilities, then people with dementia.