Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian-Made Robot, Named Ludwig, Helping Assess Dementia at Retirement Home

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian-Made Robot, Named Ludwig, Helping Assess Dementia at Retirement Home

Article excerpt

Canadian-made robot, Ludwig, designed to assess dementia

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TORONTO - A retirement home in north Toronto is preparing to welcome an unusual resident: Ludwig, an artificially intelligent robot.

Adorned with spiky mauve-coloured hair, green-tinged eyes and a few quirky facial expressions to mimic a range of emotions, the two-foot-tall robot is made to look and act like a little boy.

But his job is far from child's play.

By drawing his elderly neighbours into conversation, Ludwig's creators say he can track and monitor signs of Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

He's so good, he can detect subtle changes in speech and vocal patterns that might escape retirement home staff, says Isaac Weinroth, executive director of One Kenton Place, where Ludwig will begin trials next month.

"Even things like the time gap between verbs, or the use of verbs, or lack of verbs, the time gap between sentences, between words in sentences," he says.

"Those are the kind of minute changes that the robot and the technology can pick up as it interacts with an individual, that we as human beings don't necessarily track as well."

And the earlier such changes are caught, the sooner the resident can get help, says Weinroth.

"You might need to adjust medication or even day-to-day activities. If somebody is showing weaknesses in one area you can focus on that area to try and strengthen it."

Ludwig, named after philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, was developed by a research team at the University of Toronto.

Team leader Dr. Frank Rudzicz predicts artificial intelligence "will play a huge role in elderly care going forward," envisioning robots could also monitor seniors in their own homes eventually.

"There's going to be a huge rise of incidence of Alzheimer's disease in the next couple of decades," says Rudzicz, a scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and an assistant computer science professor at the U of T. …

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