The U.K. government has launched a research program that will focus on “making autonomous systems safe and trustworthy for public use”.
The scheme, backed by funding of £33.9 million ($43.54 million) across five years, could result in the development of sophisticated “care robots” which would be deployed to assist the elderly.
Actions that could potentially be taken by such robots include helping people up after a fall, making sure medication is taken, and delivering meals.
The idea of developing “care robots” comes as the U.K. faces an ageing population, with the government stating that one in seven people were now expected to be over 75 by the year 2040.
Authorities said research would be carried out to make sure that robots were “better protected against cyber-attacks” and able to demonstrate traits such as respect, equality and fairness.
It is hoped that qualities such as these could see robots being used in places such as hospitals and care homes alongside human professionals.
The government added that the new autonomous systems program would seek to benefit a range of sectors, including transport, where it described “lack of public trust” as a “key challenge.”
On the robotics front, authorities have already invested in a project called CHIRON. That scheme ran between 2016 and 2018, with the Bristol Robotics Laboratory acting as one of its “key technology partners”. The project developed a “prototype modular robotic system” which uses the brand name of JUVA.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory’s Praminda Caleb-Solly said that “assistive robots” could provide “essential support for those who need help carrying out everyday tasks,” enabling people to “maintain their independence for as long as possible.”
“But making sure we can trust these robots by reducing the risks associated with this technology is essential,” Caleb-Solly added. “Unlocking their full potential means they could assist with anything from physiotherapy to assistance for older people with mobility issues, improving people’s quality of life significantly.”
Smart, innovative technology is now being used in a number of interesting ways in medicine. In September 2019, researchers at the University of Oxford announced they had developed artificial intelligence technology that could identify whether someone was at high risk of a fatal heart attack years before it occurs.