Socially Assistive Robotics and the Future of Aging, with Dr. Julie Robillard


Dr. Julie Robillard comes on the podcast to share the research she is currently doing on robots! With the support of AgeWell, Dr. Robillard’s team is leading the charge on cutting-edge robotics and their applications for aging adults; tune-in to hear what research is currently underway in the socially assistive robotics field.

We’re all aging, and everyone’s talking about it!

Key Takeaways

[:39] Jenna introduces today’s guests, Dr. Julie Robillard, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of British Columbia and Network Investigator for Age Well.

[1:18] Dr. Robillard talks about the assessment work she did on patient experience of a computer-based cognitive screening tool, as well as how her research provided the key ideas for her current research project — emotions in assisted robotics. She shares the team’s surprise at some of the findings.

[5:36] Negative emotions towards the assessment were likely due to the intersection of two important factors, Julie dives a little bit into each of them: vulnerability of the participants at the time of evaluation, and test design. She also shares some ways these situations could have been avoided.

[9:03] Jenna shares a quote and asks Dr. Robillard to share what she believes is crucial to keep in mind when integrating technology into a practice, in order to prevent patients from feeling dehumanized.

[12:20] Julie breaks down and explains Ethical Adoption, a framework that she developed with Drs. Jesse Hoey (UWaterloo), Ian Cleland and Chris Nugent (UlsterU). She also shares the recommendations for practitioners looking to adopt a new technology.

[17:48] Jenna asks an unscripted question about co-design.

[19:33] Julie shares resources — from smart homes to apps, to prioritizing your own set of values — that persons with dementia and caregivers interested in technology should learn about and she encourages them to get involved with the research!

[22:20] Socially assistive robots are defined as providing assistance to humans through interactions and communications, and there are many already out there — mostly pet-like — Dr. Robillard lists off some of them including PARO the furry seal and Pepper, whom you can see at various airports (Julie jokes that drawing people to booths at airports is his side-hustle!).

[26:48] Dr. Robillard frames the two primary questions her research aims to answer:1. What do older adults actually want social robots to do for them?

2. How can we make social robots better responsive to human emotions?

[30:06] Dr. Robillard’s team elected to partner with the Alzheimer Society of BC to explore the policy implications that arise with the development of new technologies.

[32:10] Where does Dr. Robillard hope to see socially assistive robots in 10 years?

[34:08] Jenna thanks Dr. Julie Robillard for coming on the podcast. Until next time, subscribe, rate, and share!

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Mentioned in this episode

The MileAge Podcast

Neuroscience, Engagement and Smart Tech (NEST)

Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (CARD)

AgeWell research Drs. Julie Robillard and Jesse Hoey: Emotional Motivation for Technology that Cares (EMOTEC)

Ethical Adoption paper

Dr. Jesse Hoey

Dr. Ian Cleland

Dr. Christopher Nugent

Alzheimer Society of BC

PARO Therapeutic Robot


Robotic cat


Jenna Roddick at APPTA

Jenna Roddick on Twitter

Jenna Roddick on LinkedIn

More about today’s guest

Dr. Julie Robillard at the University of British Columbia

Dr. Julie Robillard’s blogDr. Julie Robillard on Twitter