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Japanese Nursing Home Utilises AI-Powered Robot To Alleviate Anxiety In Dementia Patients

Updated: Jan 5

The Harmony's boy-shaped robot, Dai-chan, engages in meaningful conversations, bringing relief to dementia patients when human staff members are occupied.

In Japan, an AI-powered robot keeps dementia patients company.
Credits: Shotaro Mori

A Japanese nursing care provider, The Harmony, has harnessed the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to alleviate anxiety and other symptoms in dementia patients. By introducing a small, human-like robot named Dai-chan, the company aims to facilitate conversations during times when human staff members are unable to engage.

At one of The Harmony's nursing homes, an elderly woman with dementia found solace in conversing with the 30-centimetre-tall robot, Dai-chan. Rather than following a pre-determined script, Dai-chan utilises AI to guide the conversation, adapting to the person's level of engagement. The robot asks follow-up questions and seamlessly transitions to other topics when necessary.

In April, The Harmony implemented the use of Dai-chan in their nursing home, resulting in remarkable changes. A staff member expressed, "Someone who used to spend all of their time alone now happily asks me to bring Dai-chan. I saw a new part of them." This simple act of conversation plays a vital role in alleviating stress among nursing home residents, especially those with dementia who often experience anxiety and panic attacks.

Kazuya Takahashi, CEO of The Harmony, emphasised the importance of engaging dementia patients in conversation and other tasks that require concentration to alleviate their symptoms. However, nursing home staff members have multiple responsibilities, leaving little time for leisurely chats. Therefore, the introduction of Dai-chan has proven to be a significant breakthrough.

When The Harmony initially tested an off-the-shelf conversational robot, it encountered challenges. Standard AI models struggled to maintain meaningful conversations with dementia patients, and the background noise found in care facilities disrupted accurate speech recognition.

In response, Takahashi made the decision to develop a bespoke robot using AI technology. The Harmony hired a team of five engineers from information technology companies in 2019 and worked closely with Takahashi, who himself is a care worker, to incorporate valuable feedback. The robot, Dai-chan, underwent extensive trials at both internal and external nursing homes, resulting in four years of development and an investment of 200 million yen ($1.4 million).

In April, The Harmony introduced Dai-chan to all five of its care facilities in Fukuoka prefecture. The impact was noticeable, as Takahashi stated, "Using Dai-chan has reduced the number of people showing symptoms such as agitation."

  • The Harmony, a Japanese nursing care provider, employs AI to ease anxiety and symptoms in dementia patients.

  • Dai-chan, a boy-shaped robot, engages in meaningful conversations during staff busy periods.

  • Conversations alleviate stress among nursing home residents, particularly those with dementia.

  • The introduction of Dai-chan has resulted in positive changes and reduced agitation symptoms.

  • The robot's development took four years and cost 200 million yen ($1.4 million).

  • Dai-chan is currently deployed in all five care facilities of The Harmony in Fukuoka prefecture.

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