Robot Zora creates wonder at Brightwater Care in Madeley

Brightwater Madeley resident Vernon Haines with Zora.
Brightwater Madeley resident Vernon Haines with Zora.

A HUMANOID robot that can have conversations, lead dance classes and tell jokes is delighting residents at a Madeley aged-care facility.

In an Australian first, the 57cm-high socialisation robot, called Zora, arrived at Brightwater Madeley from Belgium last month as part of a 12-month clinical study.

Zora is programmed to provide cognitively and physically stimulating activities to aged-care residents and is operated remotely by staff via a tablet.

Brightwater Care Group senior researcher Karla Seaman said Zora was already proving popular with residents.

“Zora has encouraged them to play games with her, she’s led them in gentle dance routines, told them stories and had personal conversations with them,” she said.

“She can do all sorts of things like read the news, play guessing games and lead exercise classes, all of which are good for the mind and the body.

“Staff at Brightwater Madeley have already reported that Zora has helped to lift residents’ spirits and that there has been a lot of talk about their newest resident.”

The $22,500 robot is used in aged-care facilities in the US and Europe, with research showing it can help to slow cognitive decline.

It has in-built cameras, speakers and microphones and can converse in 19 languages.

Zora was specifically designed for use in aged care and rehabilitation by Belgian company QBMT, with its managing director Tommy Deblieck visiting Madeley for the launch.

“We have been very careful in programming exactly how Zora interacts with people and human gestures such as blinking, making eye contact and slight head movements,” he said.

“It was well worth the effort and it is so rewarding to see the impact this makes on the quality of life for people in aged care.”