THE ROBOT IS SMILING AT ME, his red rubbery lips curved in a cheery grin. I’m seated in front of a panel with 10 numbered buttons, and the robot, a three-foot-tall, legless automaton with an impish face, is telling me which buttons to push and which hand to push them with. Touch seven with your right hand; touch three with your left.
The idea is to go as fast as I can. When I make a mistake, he corrects me; when I speed up, he tells me how much better I’m doing. Despite the simplicity of our interactions, I’m starting to like the little guy. Maybe it’s his round silvery eyes and moon-shaped face; maybe it’s his soothing voice—not quite human, yet warm all the same. Even though I know he’s just a jumble of wires and circuitry, I want to do better on these tests, to please him.
The robot’s name is Bandit. We’re together in a tiny room at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, California, where Bandit regularly puts stroke victims through their paces. They’re very fond of him, says University of Southern California researcher Eric Wade, who has worked with Bandit and his predecessors for five years. The stroke victims chitchat with Bandit, chide him, smile when he congratulates them. “People will try to hug the robots,” says Wade. “We go out to nursing homes, and people ask, ‘When’s the robot coming back?’”
Bandit is one of a growing number of social robots designed to help humans in both hospitals and homes. There are robots that comfort lonely shut-ins, assist patients suffering from dementia, and help autistic kids learn how to interact with their human peers. They’re popular, and engineered to be so. If we didn’t like them, we wouldn’t want them listening to our problems or pestering us to take our meds. So it’s no surprise that people become attached to these robots. What is surprising is just how attached some have become. Researchers have documented people kissing their mechanized companions, confiding in them, giving them gifts—and being heartbroken when the robot breaks, or the study ends and it’s time to say good-bye.
WASHINGTON — Let them eat pork!
Mitt Romney is getting heat for a 2003 veto he cast as governor of Massachusetts to reject $600,000 in additional funds for poor Jewish nursing-home residents to get kosher meals.
At the time, Romney said he nixed the funding of about $5 per day because it “unnecessarily” would lead to an “increased rate for nursing facilities” — even as kosher nursing homes were complaining that state-funding-formula changes could force them to close their kitchens.
“I was outraged,” Jeffrey Goldshine, the retired CEO of a company that operated a kosher facility in Massachusetts, told The Post yesterday.
‘For the elderly Jewish residents of a nursing home that have always been kosher — they should be entitled to continue.’
The Massachusetts Legislature approved an amendment to restore the $600,000 to finance the kosher meals allowing a ‘most vulnerable segment of our population” to ‘enjoy a special dignity,’ according to the Jewish Community Council.
We are not talking about convicted felons in prison, these are elderly disabled patients in nursing homes!