#CHI2019 WS Day 1: The Robot Doctor

“I imagine that in rural areas people might be hesitant to adopt this technology”.

“This technology is essential to keep people healthy, connected and entertained in the long run”.

“If this gets introduced on a large scale, we will lose the human touch”.

“If only”, she thought as the door bell rang the second time today. Up to her knees in the bowels of Mrs. Johnston’s companion, both figuratively and literally, she nodded at her own robot companion to go and open the door.

When the robot companions had been introduced first, the media had been torn. It oscillated between those who promised a fulfilled, independent and safe life for those who were assigned a robot companion that would monitor their vital signs, connect them to health services and beyond and keep them entertained and happy and the doomsday scenarios that argued that elderly people might be trapped in their own homes without any social contacts for days.

The reality had been somewhere inbetween. Most people actually liked the robots. They did a good job at what they were supposed to do. They were even good companions. Most people who had one did not want to let go. But with market saturation, the company who had provided them moved on. Turned to novel markets, AI solutions mainly, and the robot companion line was discontiued.

So was the support. It was up to the users, up to the elderly people to develop their own network of robot repairs, hacks and improvements. People shared them online, supported each other in finding the solutions, taking robots apart and putting them back together. Some of them even earned the ‘robot doctor’ for their ongoing community support and robotic services.

Sheila was one of them. She loved her robot, she loved her job, she loved the crazy ideas that people came up with. But sometimes she felt it was a bit much. The constant stream of visitors, friends, notifications that poured into her home. Some days she wished back to the olden days before the robots. The time when people had to write on facebook to get her attention. When she had about three friends and plenty of time to read. Sometimes she wished the people in rural areas had been a bit more hesitant to adopt their robot companions.



I make zines & stuff. Design. Research.Dementia & Mental Health, Craft & Activism


I make zines & stuff. Design. Research.Dementia & Mental Health, Craft & Activism