Meet robots Snow and temi, ready to help the young and old

Robots temi (left) and Snow are equipped to help out with a range of tasks and could soon take their place in Singapore preschool centres and nursing homes for senior citizens. — TODAY pic
Robots temi (left) and Snow are equipped to help out with a range of tasks and could soon take their place in Singapore preschool centres and nursing homes for senior citizens. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, July 14 — Meet Snow, a robot that could soon be helping to mark attendance and take temperatures in preschools. And temi, another robot, who could be easing the pressure on staff by carrying drinks for senior citizens at nursing homes.

MI Robotic, a Singapore-headquartered developer of applied robotics technology, will make a presentation on the use of these two mechanical helpers to the National Council of Social Services (NCSS). The presentation will be made at the NCSS Social Service summit at Marina Bay Sands and Convention Centre on Tuesday (July 16).

The China-built Snow social robot for preschools and the United States/Israeli-designed temi personal robot that could be placed in Singapore’s elderly care centres may well represent a significant trend in the future of care services, relieving staff from mundane tasks.

Snow is able to sing, dance, tell a story, launch educational apps, take attendance, measure temperatures and more. Temi is capable of carrying drinks to designated places or to patients and can also host video conferences.

In an interview with TODAY on Tuesday (July 9), managing director for MI Robotic, Jovy Chiu said that the smart robots will “help to enable ever increasing human-robot interaction”.

“Robotic technology is now at a sufficiently mature stage that robots can now take their place as useful helpers both at home, in school, and in the workplace.”

These robots will help to relieve demand for human resources on mundane and repetitive tasks.

Social robot for preschools

Robot Snow resembles a fun cartoon character and is equipped with facial expressions such as joy, anger and sadness. Standing at 1.1 metres tall, she meets preschoolers at about eye-level and is ideal for interaction.

Other than helping teachers to take the students’ temperatures and attendance, teachers could also download educational apps onto the system and conduct lessons with Snow.

Jovy Chiu said that Snow is designed to be interactive and to “increase their (students’) learning”.

“Sometimes, the students may be less interested to learn, but when they see Snow, and interact with her, they will be more interested to ask questions,” she said.

Snow is widely employed in schools in China, Thailand and the US. The developers claim 99 per cent accuracy in taking attendance and temperature.

“If you take this information manually, there is a chance that it is incorrect and not accurate. You will also not be able to do analysis,” Chiu said.

“Sometimes you may want to see why this student’s temperature is a little high on some of the days in a month. With the robot taking the temperature, you can do such observations and analysis.”

The robot is bilingual in both English and Chinese, and can be programmed in other languages such as Japanese and German.

Robot to help with senior citizens

MI Robotic, which is a reseller for temi, will also present this robot at the NCSS summit, to demonstrate its use in elderly care homes.

The one-metre tall robot is programmed to follow staff around the elderly home to assist with their day-to-day duties looking after aged residents. For example, temi can perform functions like carrying drinks to residents’ rooms, charging phones and so forth.

Temi can also be employed by users to conduct video conferences with one another.

Chiu explained that staff would be able to operate the robot from behind a desk. With instructions, the robot can visit wards and the staff can then communicate with senior citizens via the robot.

“The robot can be used to monitor the wards, when there are issues the staff then can go directly to the room, so this will minimise the need to walk around,” she said.

Temi is already in wide use in the US, Australia and Europe.

“Its video conferencing quality is very good. It is one of the best personal robots in 2018, and is suitable for use in homes and offices as well,” Chiu said.

Use of smart tech

These smart robots are equipped with multiple sensors that help them carry out various tasks.

Snow has up to seven sensors that helps it in facial recognition, video recording, photo-taking, dancing, temperature recording and accurate navigation. Temi has multiple sensors such as depth cameras and proximity sensors.

The robots also come with Slamtech, a technology which helps in virtual tracking, obstacle avoidance and autonomous path planning.

While both are capable of avoiding obstacles, Snow is better at it.

There are plans to bring in more robots of various functions to Singapore, such as for security and delivery services. For security robots, they can be employed for patrolling and surveillance tasks. While for delivery, they can be used in retail and restaurants to service customers.

MI Robotic is expected to offer preschools five sets of Robot Snow for a free trial up to a month, while temi would be available for purchase at S$2,988 (RM9,054).

Robot Snow retails for S$9,800. — TODAY