Alumni News

UniSA wins Toyota Foundation grant to examine advances in robotics and aged care

Professor Anthony Elliot, Dean: External Engagement External Relations and Strategic Projects

Anthony Elliot

Could socially assistive robots developed by Japanese engineers become the future carers of Australia’s growing elderly population?

In a pioneering new research project, University of South Australia researchers are collaborating with Japanese institutions to deliver a comparative and especially policy-ready appraisal of the transformation of lifestyle change and aged care in Australia and Japan.

Professor Anthony Elliott, UniSA’s Dean of External Engagement and Executive Director of the Hawke EU Centre, has been awarded a prestigious two-year Toyota Foundation Research Grant to conduct an in-depth comparative analysis of the robotics revolution in aged care in both Australia and Japan.

With the rapid rise in ageing populations and associated care costs throughout the developed world, robots may offer significant solutions to the challenges of aged care.

Robots in rapidly ageing Japan are already being employed to help the elderly with rehabilitation and managing everyday tasks.

In cooperation with two leading Japanese universities, Keio University and Rissho University, Professor Elliott’s project, "Assessment of Socially Assistive Robotics in Elderly Care: Toward technologically-integrated aged care and well-being in Japan and Australia", is dedicated to developing an interdisciplinary approach to robotics and artificial intelligence in aged care innovation.

Prof Elliott and UniSA colleagues Dr Eric Hsu, Dr Ross Boyd, Louis Everuss, Mikako Suzuki, with Prof Atsushi Sawai from Keio University and Prof Masataka Katagiri from Rissho University, will work on the new project in Australia and Japan over the next two years.

The project will see researchers collaborate across disciplines with social scientists, engineers, design specialists, IT consultants and many others experts.

Professor Elliott says the significant project will explore one of the big challenges facing ageing societies globally and deliver, not only insights, but a policy-focused assessment of the application of robot care for the ageing.

“Both UniSA and the Toyota Foundation take innovation very seriously, and my research team will be seeking to map the revolutionary advances in robotics and AI, with particular focus on the social consequences for lifestyle change and aged care,” Prof Elliott says.

“I’m also delighted to be part of a project that will deepen UniSA’s research links with Japan and support UniSA’s goal to develop as one of the world’s leading and globally-connected research institutions focused on industry innovation.”

A distinguished research professor with an outstanding track record, Prof Elliott has international research experience ranging from the Graduate School of Human Relations at Keio University in Japan (where he is Global Professor (Visiting) of Sociology), the Open University in the UK, University College Dublin in Ireland, and Cambridge University, where he completed his PhD.

A Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, he has published more than 40 books in the field of social theory (translated into over 12 languages) and won more than AU$3 million in public and private research funding.

This new research project will develop the first systematic approach to the social impacts of robotics in aged care in Japan and Australia, examining how cutting-edge robotic technology will deliver greater efficiencies in care and help plug the gap in chronic labour shortages.

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