Reconceptualizing the Elderly through Social Robots in South Korea
(Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST))
Chihyung Jeon (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology)
Sungeun Kim (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology)
Paper short abstract:
The robots designed for the elderly in South Korea rely on, propagate, and reinforce specific concepts of the elderly human. We analyze how the elderly-robot relationship is represented in design, enacted in real time, and connected to the shifting ideas about health, aging, and death.
Paper long abstract:
Robots, especially the social ones, presume a certain kind of person as their users or companions. When it interacts with people, the social robot may even produce a kind of person. In this paper, we examine how the robots designed for the elderly in South Korea rely on, propagate, and reinforce specific concepts of the elderly human. Robots with different functions are expected to work with different kinds of the elderly: the sick, the weak, the sedentary, the lonely, or the demented. One of the well-known robots for the elderly is Silbot, the "dementia prevention robot" developed by Korea Institute of Science and Technology. The use of Silbot requires elderly people who are physically healthy enough to play games with the robot. At the same time, these elderly users are assumed to be at a risk of developing dementia sometime in the near future (unless they work hard to prevent it). The cognitive and social aspects of the elderly-robot relationship let the researchers put the elderly in a similar category with children with developmental disorder. We will point out that designing and testing the robots for the elderly involves placing both the elderly and the robots on a spectrum of "humanness," which creates an implicit hierarchy and tension between the two. We will then analyze how this relationship is represented in design, enacted in real time, and possibly connected to the shifting ideas about health, aging, and death in South Korea.
Manufacturing Humans While Developing Social Robots, Smart Environments & Wearables