The “Garmi” robot looks like any other machine with black screens that act as wheels, arms and eyes. Researchers hope it can alleviate a shortage of health care workers in a town in southern Germany.
For retired doctor Günther Steinebach, the robot represents a “dream” because it “can perform diagnostic and care tasks.”
In the long term, it can also provide care and treatment.
The humanoid “Garmi” was created by dozens of researchers specializing in “Geriatronics” at the Technical University of Munich. This is an area that seeks to apply new technologies to geriatrics.
The researchers are working in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a town in the Bavarian Alps, a region in southern Germany with a large population of elderly people.
The country faces one of the highest rates of aging in the world, with officials estimating that by 2050 an additional 670,000 people will need to work in the health sector.
A researcher’s goal is simple. Introducing robots into nursing homes and other geriatric facilities to reduce doctor travel.
“Today we have automatic money vending machines. I could imagine that one day, based on the same model, people would have a medical checkup in a sort of technical center,” said the 43-year-old. explains Abdeldjallil Naceri, Ph.D.
With the help of robots, doctors can remotely review patient results, a useful tool for people living in remote areas.
Humanoids can also perform numerous tasks such as serving food, opening water bottles, asking for help, and hosting video chats with family and friends.
In the lab, Dr. Gunther Steinebach prepares to test the effectiveness of the robot. His office table has three screens and his one joystick.
Across the room, a researcher has been selected as a guinea pig, sitting in a chair across from Garmi. The robot places a stethoscope on his chest and is remotely controlled by Dr. Steinebach.
Medical data is instantly displayed on the doctor’s screen. “Imagine if you were in the previous office (…)” and started without releasing the lever.
Other doctors visit the lab regularly to provide feedback on the robot. “He’s like his three-year-old. We have to teach him everything,” he sums up Dr. Abdeldjallil Naceri.
“Trust” in robots
It is not yet known when Garmi will be mass produced and used on a daily basis. The costs implied by its use have not yet been calculated.
“We have to get there. As the statistics show, it is an urgent task. By 2030, we should be able to integrate this kind of technology into our society. says Naceri.
Once the project is revealed, Garmi will be used in the quiet corridors of the Sankt Vinzenz nursing home in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The idea brings a smile to 74-year-old Mrs. Rohrer. “There are things robots can do, such as providing drinks and food,” thinks a retiree living in a residence.
For facility director Eva Pioskowik, staff shortages are “a part of the day.”
“Robots are not the solution, but they will allow staff to spend more time with residents,” he says.
But the main challenge for Abdeldjallil Naceri’s team is patient acceptance of humanoids.
“They will have to trust robots,” he admits. “Let them use it like we use smartphones today,” he adds.