A First in the Nation

Jul 6, 2022

UMD Professor Deploys Humanoid Robots to Assist in Nursing Homes.

UMD professor of computer science, Arshia Khan and her graduate students are set to deploy two robots at The Estates of Roseville, part of the Monarch Healthcare Management, on Wednesday, July 6, 2022. It’s a dream come true for Khan. “I am extremely excited to be making history with my students by deploying humanoid robots in nursing homes to help care for our elderly,” says Khan. “This is a major step and the beginning in helping improve the quality of life of elderly and people affected with dementia using humanoid robots.” This robot deployment will be the first in the United States focused on augment care for residents in nursing homes. 

Khan’s research focuses on biomedical and health informatics, and she’s programmed robots that have the technology needed to enhance care. These robots are equipped to assist individuals with their emotional, physical and cognitive health. They are programmed to do this by entertaining, noticing when routines such as exercising and eating habits are off, and by administering cognitive therapy. The robots interact and can detect a person’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical movements. They can make eye-contact and talk. The overall goal is to ensure that people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease stay independent longer.

Computer science graduate students work alongside Dr. Khan. The students will start immediately working with the robots to map out the floor plan of the facility. This way, the robots will be able to navigate around on their own. 

Khan gives praise to Monarch and the Department of Human Services, along with many other funders and granters along the way, for their support in getting to this point. “Humanoid robots in helping elderly is the way to move ahead in caring for our elderly,” says Khan. “The growth in elderly population and simultaneous growth in the people affected with dementia, staff shortages and lack of people who can for our elderly is a problem that is growing exponentially. If we don’t look for alternative solutions and think outside the box our elders will suffer. Japan is way ahead of us and it’s time we in US caught up.”

This facility is the first of eight Monarch nursing homes across Minnesota to start utilizing humanoid robots. The other Monarch nursing homes will get their robots over the course of the next few weeks. 

The Partnership

The partnership with Monarch was initiated by a graduate student in Khan’s dementia friendly design study who also works for Monarch. “He loved the idea of and shared it with leaders at the healthcare management company,” remembers Khan. “So I met with them and explained what the robots can do for residents.” Monarch, eager to showcase its brand as innovative and on the cutting edge of healthcare reform, responded with enthusiasm.

To support Khan's work, make a gift to the UMD Computer Science Support Fund for Robotic Research.