The Effects of a Humanoid Socially Assistive Robot Versus Tablet Training on Psychosocial and Physical Outcomes of Persons With Dementia: Protocol for a Mixed Methods Study

Publication from Digital
Intelligent Vision Applications, Connected Computing

Sandra Schüssler, Julia Zuschnegg, Lucas Paletta, Maria Fellner, Gerald Lodron, Josef Steiner, Sandra Pansy-Resch, Lara Lammer, Dimitrios Prodromou, Sebastian Brunsch, Magdalena Holter, Lorenzo Carnevale, Silvia Russegger

JMIR Res Protoc 2020;9(2):e14927 doi:10.2196/14927, 2/2020


Background: New technologies, like socially assistive robots (SARs), may have the potential to support caregivers at home.

Still, the evidence for people with dementia in home care is unclear because a lot of studies are performed in a laboratory or

institutional setting, and mainly use robots in prototype stages.

Objective: This study aims to explore the effects of the refined, commercially-available, humanoid SAR Pepper combined with

a tablet PC–based dementia training program (Coach Pepper) versus an exclusively tablet PC–based dementia training program

on psychosocial and physical outcomes of people with dementia living at home, including caregivers and dementia trainers. We

hypothesize that Coach Pepper has a more positive effect on the primary outcome motivation (stable or decreased apathy) of

people with dementia.

Methods: A mixed methods study will be performed, including a randomized controlled, parallel, 2-arm study with a

complementary qualitative part. This sample includes 40 PWD living at home and 40 relatives, each complemented with five

professional caregivers and dementia trainers. The intervention group will receive Coach Pepper (a SAR connected with a tablet

PC–based dementia training program), and the control group will receive exclusively tablet PC–based training without the SAR.

The duration of the intervention will be three weeks per household. Data will be collected at baseline and during and after the

intervention by standardized questionnaires, sensor data of the robot, and tablet PC, as well as semistructured interviews, focus

groups, and observation.

Results: To date, no results are available for this study protocol. The study intervention started in May 2019 and will end in

Spring 2020.

Conclusions: The intervention of this study can be seen as a nonpharmacological intervention, including cognitive and physical

training by a robot. This study will help to further refine SAR for the specific needs of people with dementia living at home.

Keywords: dementia, socially assistive robot, home care, caregiver, dementia trainers, motivation, physical training, cognitive training, care burden, humanoid robot