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"New Canberra-based language centre uses robots to help dementia patients"

Evolution, Learning, Processing, Shape, Technology

Date: 24 November 2014

From ABC News:

Dementia patients could be assisted in the future with a robot to help prompt their memory, language researchers say.

A new Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language has opened at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra.

The centre brings together linguists, psychologists, philosophers and robotic experts to study complex human communication problems.

Centre director Nick Evans said a robotic device to help dementia sufferers was in the early concept phase.

"If you just imagine an app which is like a little parrot sitting on your shoulder," he said.

"Maybe you have early diagnosis of dementia, it starts to observe you, what you say, who you call the loved ones in your life, what are the things you want to say, and storing your own private routine of communication that's tailor made for you."

The language team will also visit parts of Australia, Asia and the Pacific to record languages that are disappearing.

"We live in the most linguistically diverse part of the world, here in Australia and part of the western Pacific," Professor Evans said.

"Most of the languages we know practically nothing about and they are disappearing before our eyes.

"The idea is to look at that diversity and build the new science of language that takes diversity as the starting point."

Professor Evans said researchers hope to link the study of ancient languages to the development of futuristic high-tech applications.

"It may seem like a very, very far cry from sitting in the dust studying an Indigenous language, to building a robot to work in an old person's home in Tokyo, but the challenge we're facing in this centre, we believe it's actually going to work, is we're going to tie things like those two together."

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University