Robots ready to lend a hand

Robot with a smiling woman on the display screen
Temi personal robots have built-in smart display and can follow commands.

Starting in November, personal robots will be rolling around two sites in Franklin County as part of a technology pilot through the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.
The temi robots are about 3 feet tall and look a little like Segways with iPads. One is headed to a community home whose residents receive services from the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities and the other will be based at FCBDD’s West Central School.
Eight more are being deployed to five other Ohio counties for use in homes, schools, intermediate-care facilities, a developmental center and employment site.
“We’re so excited,” said Sara Eppard, Ohio director for the support-services provider Dungarvin. “The folks that we support are getting more and more tech-savvy, as most of us are. I think it’s going to be a really good match.”
The temi robot assigned to Dungarvin will make itself useful at a Columbus-area ranch house shared by two men, Eppard said. West Central Principal Maryalice Turner said she can envision their robot helping students with in-school jobs, communication goals and more.
“It’s going to be up to us to discover what it can do for us,” said Jack Brownley, FCBDD director of schools and special services.
The pilot aligns with the state’s Technology First initiative and ongoing efforts to increase the use of innovative technologies across the services spectrum, said Stacy Collins of DODD’s Division of Policy and Strategic Direction.
“We really want to pilot them, test them, see if they can be helpful to people with developmental disabilities,” Collins said of the robots. “Can they help meet the needs of families, providers and DSPs? We’re excited to find out.”
The state’s partner for the 12-month, $105,000 project is Connected Living, a Massachusetts-based company with experience providing technology services for the aging population. Connected Living doesn’t manufacture the temi robot but will help with set up, training and ongoing consultation.
The Alexa-enabled devices have immense capabilities. With built-in smart display, motion sensors and facial recognition, temi robots can answer questions, respond to commands, play music, stream videos, follow people around or go where they’re told.
No one envisions robots replacing human support systems; the hope is that they can enhance safety and independence.
“Both of the guys in the home get nearly 24-7 support, but they do have some alone time,” Eppard said. “And I feel like they probably have more capabilities. The robot just might help.”