A brand new robot brings out the gentle side of R2D2. The robot, being called "RUDY" acts as a caregiver for the elderly. WUSA9 stopped by the Fairfax home of Marie Pantalone, as she gave the robot a try.
"Is the sun out," the robot asked Marie, as she sat on the couch.
"Yes," she responded with a laugh.
"Have you gone out today," Rudy asked.
"No," she responded.
Pantalone said it's not lost on her that she's talking to a robot.
"After awhile," she said. "It seems to be your friend. Your companion."
The robot was created to engage seniors, through a series of games, conversation topics, jokes, and even dancing. Yeah, this thing dances.
"He really has a sense of rhythm," Pantalone laughed, as the robot played an old Glen Miller song. "I think he's awesome."
The robot was created by Anthony Nunez, and his company INF Robotics. He said he created it, after watching his mother care for his grandmother as a teenager.
"It left an impact on me," he said. "I wanted to do something about it."
Perhaps the main feature of the robot is the video capability. The robot holds a tablet, and family and caregivers can dial in at anytime to check on the seniors.
Pantalone's daughter Toni, said this is a valuable tool.
"I call her on her cell phone," she said. "And she doesn't answer. I call her on the home phone she doesn't answer. So now I'm panicking... But with Rudy, I can turn him on and go look for my mother."
Toni also runs a senior care company called Comfort Keepers, based out of Reston. She said this technology could be the future. Currently, the robot can be leased for $99 per day, and comes with three-daily-service calls from a caregiver.
Despite a lot of promise, it doesn't work perfectly. During our visit with Rudy, there were a few times that the robot did not respond to Pantalone's commands. It also would sometimes turn away from her. Nunez said this is because the robot responds to movement, triggered by our camera crew.
Despite those setbacks, Pantalone said it's like being in a futuristic movie.
"Something with Harrison Ford," she laughed.
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