The movie Robot & Frank, starring Frank Langella and a cute humanoid robot, opened in New York this weekend. The idea of robots being able to care for elderly people is nothing new, so does this film add to the debate?
From its trailers, this isn't a serious movie and from what we know of its plot it's far from realistic. However, it has prompted Slate to ask Will the Elderly Ever Accept Care from Robots?
Thomas Rogers argues that, even when the roboticists have overcome the technological hurdles, it may be difficult to persuade the elderly to accept help from robots.
The comments on the article confirm that opinion is divided. There are those who can see the plus points of having autonomous machines involved in geriatric care and those who feel threatened - either by the idea that robots take over jobs, or by the way it could lead to more neglect of elderly people on the part of their families or by the medical profession.
In this clip form the movie we see Frank's resistance to complying with the regime suggested by his personal robot. The robot comes up with an argument that suggests he has highly advanced communication skills - which is not a realistic scenario for any time in the foreseeable timescale. But then this is a movie, not a documentary.
Even so it may have something to tell us about how robots might be capable of taking on some domestic and caring roles in the not-too-distant future.
In this clip the nature of robots v humans is brought out with surprising logic. Who could argue that the robots haven't got it right and the humans should cut out the small talk:
Although such accomplished robots aren't likely to be looking after humans for some time, you can expect limited function devices to be on the market any time soon. Companionship of the sort that Robot offers Frank, however, needs some real breakthroughs in AI.