Talking robots transforming care sector, thanks to Metro Mayor grant

A care robot called Genie met Metro Mayor Dan Norris to explain how it is caring for the region’s older and disabled adults thanks to cash injection from the Metro Mayor on Wednesday, during Carers Week.

Developed by Stoke Gifford-based Service Robotics, Genie is the world’s first “remote care” companion robot, designed to help deliver more flexible and better-quality care to combat loneliness and isolation in the care sector and reduce demand on overstretched health and social care providers.

Genie explained to the Metro Mayor how £4,800 of funding from the West of England Combined Authority, led by the Metro Mayor, has helped provide company and support for local people, including supporting people with disabilities to live independent lives. Thanks to the cash, Genie is supporting over 800 people nationwide this year compared to 60 in 2021, a staggering 1233% increase.

The robot is connected to loved ones which could be friends, family, neighbours or carers. This “circle of care” control the robot. Using a companion app, they can programme the machine to offer practical help including medication reminders, arranging video calls and playing users’ favourite music, helping local people live independently and providing extra helping hand for care workers.

The initiative comes amid a continuing staffing crisis for the UK care sector exacerbated by the pandemic. Currently there are 105,000 vacancies in the sector in England and it is expected that 500,000 new carers will be required by 2030 to maintain current levels of care.

Before chatting away with the walking, talking robot, the Metro Mayor met inventors Rob Parkes and Tim Morgan from Service Robotics for a tour of their lab space on the UWE campus on Filton Road. They explained how Genie is not intended to replace carers but to supplement their efforts by supporting tasks that can be delivered remotely and helping fill lonely periods.

They will also explain how Genie is currently working with Bristol Robotics lab on new control systems for the ever-improving robot, including a project to future proof and expand its functions.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “Speaking with a real-life robot is certainly not something I usually expect when I set off in the morning! It just goes to show how bold and innovative our region really is. I’m so pleased a cash injection from the West of England Combined Authority I lead is helping local people needing a helping hand to live independent lives and supporting our amazing carers too. Robots in the care sector should not be seen as part of a frightening vision for the future. They clearly offer key additions to an already overstretched system, and I’m delighted the West of England is leading the way here”.

Speaking about the visit, Service Robotics Chief Operating Officer Tim Morgan said: “Service Robotics are delighted to have Dan visit us and we welcome the opportunity to show him the work we are doing to evolve social care to its next level. This grant is particularly welcome as we are currently fund raising to enable inclusion of people with Learning Disabilities in our service. Service Robotics, through Genie, are in the business of providing peace of mind for service users and their friends, family, and carers. Genie is a proven excellent addition to the tools Care Providers now have, allowing service users better access to care, support and companionship than ever before while always maintaining human contact. Our service users think so too!”.

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