A research project to develop and evaluate the world’s first culturally aware robots aimed at assisting in caring for the elderly has today been named as one of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives.
Irena Papadopoulos, Professor of Transcultural Health and Nursing at Middlesex University London, is responsible for developing the cultural content, models and guidelines so that robots are able to respond to the culture-specific needs and preferences of elderly clients.
Middlesex University and the University of Bedfordshire are collaborating on the international three-year research project which is being led by Professor Antonio Sgorbissa at University of Genoa and has been jointly funded by the EU and the Japanese Government.
The list of breakthroughs demonstrates how UK universities are at the forefront of some of the world’s most important discoveries, innovations and social initiatives, including the discovery of penicillin, work tackling plastic pollution, ultrasound scans to check the health of unborn babies and the establishment of the Living Wage.
“It is a fantastic achievement for the CARESSES project to be featured in the UK’s Best Breakthrough list. We’re extremely proud to be working with the University of Bedfordshire and other academics around the world on this incredibly important initiative" Professor Irena Papdopoulos, Middlesex University
The list also highlights the less celebrated but vital breakthroughs that transform lives, including a specially-designed bra to help women undergoing radiotherapy; a toilet that flushes human waste without the need for water; the development of a new scrum technique to make rugby safer; a sports initiative that aims to use football to resolve conflict in divided communities; - and even work to protect the quality of the chocolate we eat.
The list was compiled by Universities UK, the umbrella group for UK universities, as part of the MadeAtUni campaign to change public perceptions of universities and bring to life the difference they make to people, lives and communities across the UK.
It follows independent research undertaken by Britain Thinks which found that the public has little understanding of the benefits of universities beyond undergraduate teaching. The findings show that research is one of the key triggers to change opinion about universities but for many people, it is an abstract concept.
Professor Papadopoulos said: “It is a fantastic achievement for the CARESSES project to be featured in the UK’s Best Breakthrough list. We’re extremely proud to be working with the University of Bedfordshire and other academics around the world on this incredibly important initiative
“Assistive, intelligent robots for older people could relieve pressures in hospital and care homes as well as improving care delivery at home and promoting independent living for the elderly. In order for robots to be more acceptable to older people it is essential that they can be programmed to adapt to diverse backgrounds, understand the importance of individuals’ cultural backgrounds and respond appropriately without stereotyping. This is where my expertise in transcultural nursing comes in. Care robots that are culturally competent are likely to meet with greater acceptance from both the older people and their carers.
“The MadeAtUni campaign is an incredibly important initiative for Middlesex University as it allows students, alumni, the local community and the wider population to understand the work that we do and the impact it has.”
Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines that save lives, the teachers who inspire – all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics.
“The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.”
The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list: 100+ Ways Universities Have Improved Everyday Life was put together in partnership with universities across the UK. As part of the MadeAtUni campaign, every university in the country was invited to nominate the one thing from their institution which they believe has had the biggest impact on people, lives and communities. Over 100 universities submitted a nomination. The entries cover health, technology, environment, family, community and culture and sport.
You can find out more about the UK’s Best Breakthroughs and the MadeAtUni campaign here www.madeatuni.org.uk.