A social robot to help people with cognitive impairments

Carmen the robot uses AI to help people with disabilities.

Excerpted from the story "7 AI-Powered Technologies You Should Know About" published on UC San Diego Today August 22, 2023 

An artificially intelligent robot being developed in UC San Diego’s Healthcare Robotics Lab could one day improve access to care and increase independence for individuals living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment. The Cognitively Assistive Robot for Motivation and Neurorehabilitation, or CARMEN, is a social robot designed to teach strategies related to memory, attention, organization, problem-solving and planning.

Laurel Riek, director of the Healthcare Robotics Lab

Using custom AI algorithms, CARMEN can learn about the user and tailor its interactions based on the individual’s abilities and goals. These interactions might include teaching people to form memory-supporting habits, like putting things in familiar places in their home, or helping them set and meet their cognitive goals such as remembering names at a social gathering.

This project is spearheaded by the lab’s director, roboticist Laurel Riek, a professor of computer science and engineering with a joint appointment in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Riek has worked at the intersection of AI and robotics for decades and says that robots like CARMEN offer the potential for exciting advancements in the field. Prototypes of CARMEN are already being used to provide cognitive interventions for individuals affiliated with the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Centers in San Diego and more recently, in peoples’ homes as part of the team’s research.