woman shaking hand with robot
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Robots in senior living spaces can serve as therapy pets. They can lift residents in and out of bed and wheelchairs. And now they can play chess. 

One of the latest models hoping to hit the market en masse is RYAN – short for “Robot You Always Need” – as developers have completed the fourth iteration of the bot. 

RYAN’s Denver-based developers are hoping for “mass production” in the coming months of the latest model, the company announced in a recent report.

The current RYAN model is designed to sit in community common areas and has a tablet with games attached to its chest. The robot has a customizable face and is targeted at senior living residents struggling with social isolation and depression.

RYAN is not the only robot on the market that targets those conditions, although it appears to have more expansive capabilities — including the ability to lead yoga classes — than some other bots. 

As robots become more prevalent in senior living, figuring out where they fit in the caregiving landscape could be a challenge. 

Because many, including RYAN, resemble humanoids, they would seem to validate fears of replacing human staff and caregivers more so than other emerging technologies, such as AI-enable software. 

Developers of ElliQ, another robot meant to tackle loneliness in senior living, said they try to frame the model as neither a pet nor a human caregiver but something else entirely. 

Interactions with ElliQ, while designed to be stimulating and engaging, are meant to motivate and foster relationship-building among senior living residents, not replace peer interaction, ElliQ’s developers told McKnight’s this summer.

Overall, more research is needed on “multi-modal” robots, or those that can do more than one specific capability, according to a journal article published this week in CCF Transactions on Pervasive Computing and Interaction.

This new analysis is necessary in order to determine how new models are perceived within the healthcare community, and how seniors’ needs and attitudes are changing along with the technology, study authors state.