Stevie is the world's most advanced social robot. He has been designed to live and work in retirement communities, augmenting rather than replacing the role of carers, freeing them up to focus more on person-centric tasks and so improving care outcomes for residents. He has been around the world, being put through his paces in beta pilots all the way from Ireland and the UK, to Italy and the US, constantly learning and improving with help from everyone he's been in contact with.
Stevie is what’s known as a socially assistive robot. It’s designed to help users by engaging with them socially as well as physically. The 4-foot, 7-inch robot is equipped with autonomous navigation. It can roll through Knollwood’s hallways unassisted, though for insurance reasons—and to avoid even the remote risk of a collision in a community where falls can be life threatening—Stevie never leaves his room without a handler. The voice command “Hey Stevie” activates the robot, similar to how the wake word “Alexa” activates Amazon’s home assistant. Stevie responds to other words with speech, gestures, and head movements. Tell the robot you’re sick, for example, and it slumps forward with a sorrowful frown on its LED-screen face and says “I’m sorry to hear that.” Pay Stevie a compliment, and the screen reverts to a smile. When at rest, its head tilts gently and its digital brown eyes blink, patiently waiting for the next command.
A robot like Stevie can be useful in care homes in a number of ways. Some are fairly simple and practical: for example, its face can double as a video-conferencing screen, enabling a resident to video chat with a doctor or family member, or a staff member with a resident in another part of the building. It’s possible that a later version of Stevie could go door-to-door taking meal orders on the touchscreen attachment that can be mounted to its body. Other functions could be the difference between life and death. The robot can recognize voice commands such as “help me,” and, were it to be fully integrated into a retirement community system (a step engineers opted to postpone for privacy and regulatory concerns), the robot could alert staff to a resident in distress.