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Technologies That Shaped Our World. 06. Social Assistive Robots (SARs)

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Robotics is an interdisciplinary branch of computer science and engineering. Robotics involves the design, formation, operation, and use of robots. The goal of robotics is to develop machines that can help and support humans. Robotics integrates the field of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, information engineering, mechatronics, electronics, bioengineering, computer engineering, control engineering, software engineering, mathematics, etc.

Robotics is a breakthrough in science, a shift from mainstream technology opening new frontiers for technological innovations.

Types Of Robots
Over the years, Robots have played crucial roles- in our homes as helping machines, in factories doing daunting repetitive jobs.
In 2014, the United Nations carried out a survey that sorted Robots into three main types, which are:

1. The Personal Service Robots
Personal service robots are generally non-commercial autonomous and semi-autonomous programmable machines that perform household tasks such as cleaning, vacuuming and assisting in household chores. Examples include personal mobility assistive robots, and also companion robots such as Paro by AIST, Jibo by Jibo Cozmo by Anki

2. The Industrial Service Robot
This is “an automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulator programmable machine which may be either fixed or mobile and used in industrial automation applications”. Examples of these are assembly robots, painting robots and welding robots.

2. The Professional Service Robot
A professional service robot is “a robot mainly used for commercial purposes, and operated by properly trained operators.” An example is the Da Vinci surgical system, which was created by Intuitive Surgical Inc. of Sunnyvale California.

The need for robots and Robotics has grown sporadically over the years. Robots have become more than just tools but companions, colleagues and administrators with special abilities to interact, entertain, and motivate with some measure of control and coordination.

Social Assistive Robots (SARs)
SARs are physically embodied autonomous robot that interacts and communicates with humans or other autonomous physical agents by following a set of predesigned social behaviours, and certain rules and are confined to definite roles.
According to Christoph Bartneck et al., “A social robot is an autonomous or semi-autonomous robot that interacts and communicates with humans by following the behavioural norms expected by the people with whom the robot is intended to interact”

Social assistive or sociable Robots over the years have been engaged by therapists to help treat sensor-motor impairments such as Autism (a diverse group of conditions characterised by some degree of difficulty with social interaction and communication) and Cerebral Palsy(CP) (Is a problem that affects muscle tone, movement, and coordination. It happens when the brain can’t properly send messages to muscles about how to move in smooth or well-coordinated ways), to companions for the elderly, motivating them to engage and interact with other humans.
These smart Robots help these set of challenged individuals to help themselves, improve their cognition functions, and their ability to communicate and develop meaningful relationships with other people and things around them.

How Does Social Assistive Robots Communicate With Humans?
For effective communication, there must be a transfer of information and feedback between users. This feedback may come in the form of verbal or verbal forms. Social robots must be able to understand different social and communication cues used by humans during interactions with one other, then adapt and be able to flow in the exchange of feedback.

Social Robots Are Equipped With:
HD cameras: To detect and recognise humans and objects.
Humaniod physiology: Nose, mouth and a symbolic pair of ears
– Directional microphones: The ability to speak.
Ultrasonic sensors: Measures the distance between people and objects
Tactile sensors: ability to detect stimuli and respond accordingly.
Infrared sensors: Ability to detect movement of people and objects.
Force sensors: The ability of a Robot to detect minute forces while also affecting robot precision as little as possible.
Gyroscope: Used to measure rotation from the balanced position of a robot and send corrections to a motor.
Accelerometer: To measure the speed of a robot.
Digital encoders on each of its joints measure the movement (direction and speed) of each of the joints of the robot.
All these components make up a responsive humanoid robot.

NAO is a Social assistive robot designed as an Autism Solution for Kids. NOA a semi-autonomous machine aid teachers and carers in educating children with autism. It prompts the child, encourages and gives clues to them when a wrong answer is given, whereas they reward the child when a right answer is given. The child engages in a fun story or dance when the session is over. The teachers and carers can choose tasks based on the child’s personal learning goals, personality and progress as they have a personalised program for each child.

Benefits of Social Assistive Robots
I. SARs helps in improving social engagement and interaction in children suffering from Autism.
2. It promotes a positive mood and quality of care experience for elderly persons in care homes
3. SARs also helps the brain to function properly and effectively coordinate the muscles to move smoothly.
4. It encourages socially and mentally challenged persons with improved cognition functions and the ability to have meaningful relationships with other people and things around them.

Amidst the many benefits of Socially Assistive Robots, the barriers or disadvantages includes:
-Exhaustive cost of acquiring one.
-Mechanical failure.
-Lack of untrained persons to manage optimally.

As I conclude, the advent of special robots like SARs has salvaged children suffering from autism, persons with cerebral palsy and the elderly who have cognitive issues, and social and sensor-motor impairments. SARs gives them hope of improvement with the aid of entertaining, educative, humanoid assistive robots. The future of SARs lives beyond aid to challenged persons but a personal companion for recuperation and entertainment.

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About author
We are the same, we may only be different in our experiences, values and exposures. Technology is a big part of my experience, learning is one of my values and writing my credible means of exposure.
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