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Meet Stevie

GREG KAHN—GRAIN

It’s karaoke-rehearsal time at the Knollwood military retirement retirement HERO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES relating to the period after you have permanently stopped working at your job or profession (adjective) My grandma visits the retirement home to play Bingo each week. community, in Washington, D.C. Phil Soriano, 86, has hosted singalongs since 2016. Today, he’ll share host duties with a special guest, one who has been at Knollwood for the past six weeks: Stevie.

Soriano wants to sing the song “Y.M.C.A.” while Stevie leads the crowd through the song’s dance moves. This will be difficult. Why? Stevie is a robot.

NEW IN TOWN Knollwood residents inspect Stevie, a friendly robot.

GREG KAHN FOR TIME

“We could try to make him dance,” says Niamh Donnelly, Stevie’s lead AI AI SITTHIPHONG THADAKUN—EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES artificial intelligence; the ability of a machine to imitate human behavior (noun) The credit card company uses AI to protect users from identity theft. engineer. She types commands on a laptop. The robot stretches its peg-like arms. A grin flashes on its digital digital TOM ODULATE—GETTY IMAGES using computer technology (adjective) I read the digital version of TIME for Kids. face.

Stevie was made by the Robotics and Innovation innovation OMIKRON OMIKRON/GETTY IMAGES a new idea, device, or method (noun) When the lightbulb was invented in 1879, it was an important innovation. Lab at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland. Trinity researchers moved into Knollwood this spring and summer. They’re trying to understand what staff and residents might want from a robot.

At Your Service

Many different robots are used in health care, including some that zip around hospitals hallways like motorized carts and some like dolls that bring patients comfort. Stevie is what’s known as a social robot. It’s designed to interact interact MINT IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES to act upon one another (verb) My dog Sharon loves to interact with humans. with people. Stevie responds to words with speech, gestures, and movements. For example, tell Stevie you’re sick, and it frowns and says, “I’m sorry to hear that.” Compliment Stevie, and its screen changes to a smile. At rest, its digital eyes blink, waiting for a command.

ON A ROLL Demand for social robots like Stevie, seen here rolling down a hallway, is expected to grow 29% by 2022.

GREG KAHN FOR TIME

Stevie can recognize about 100 common questions, such as “How are you?” Other conversations require a human to type words for Stevie to say. At a social hour with Knollwood residents, Donnelly had Stevie tell a joke: “What did the left eye say to the right?” The punch line: “Between you and me, something smells!”

Researchers thought people would want Stevie to do chores, says Conor McGinn, Stevie’s lead engineer. But surprisingly, residents didn’t want to give Stevie an order and have it scoot away. They wanted Stevie to stay and keep them company.

According to McGinn, when his team asked residents what they liked most about the robot, they said, “It made me laugh” or “It made me smile.”

Jobs At Risk?

Some health-care workers see Stevie as a threat threat MELANIE HOBSON—EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES an indication that something bad might happen (noun) Fireworks can pose a threat of forest fires. . The monthly cost for the robot would be around half the cost of hiring a human to do the same job. And unlike a human, a robot can be on its feet—well, its wheels—all day and night without getting tired. But Stevie’s creators say they don’t want to replace people. They see robots and human employees working together.

Menbere Gebral is an activities assistant at Knollwood. When Stevie showed up at a recent bingo session, Gebral was wary wary JUSTIN HOYCE (JOOCER)—GETTY IMAGES cautious (adjective) Ever since Michelle's bicycle accident, she's been wary of riding her bike. . “At first, I’m scared,” she says. But after one game, she was convinced. Stevie called out the numbers, freeing Gebral to help the residents. Even with Stevie running the activity, Gebral was constantly busy during bingo hour. And she was busy doing the part of her job that she likes best—interacting with residents. “It’s very helpful,” she says of Stevie.

What about the karaoke show? “Y.M.C.A.” was a success. Phil Soriano led the audience through the lyrics while Stevie’s arms swiveled swivel VIEW STOCK/GETTY IMAGES to turn around (verb) Jay swiveled in his chair when he heard someone at the door. around, doing the best version of the dance moves its programming could allow. It wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t matter. The audience was happy.

Health Tech

New inventions are quickly changing medicine and health care. No one can predict the future, but here are three items that give us a glimpse of it.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY BROWN BIRD DESIGN FOR TIME (3)

3-D HEARTS HeartFlow makes digital models of hearts. Doctors use them to prepare for surgeries. The models can be zoomed into and rotated.

VR THERAPY After a spine injury in 2010, Isabel Van De Keere founded the company Immersive Rehab. It uses VR to help injured patients heal.

MIND-READING WATCH With the CTRL-kit watch, users can play video games—using only their brain. The watch detects electrical impulses.

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