The Bangkok Blog in Toronto

5 Oct

Pencil, the Thai robot, comes to Toronto – sort of.


This week, one of my colleagues from Bangkok came to Toronto on a trade mission. He also brought some information with him on our new home care robot, which we have named ‘Dinsow’ – that’s Pencil in English.

Pencil actually could not make it to Toronto in person because it couldn’t get a passport quickly enough and a seat on the plane would have been quite pricey.  So instead, we had a video of it performing its tasks and generally showing off.

During the visit, we went to meet a number of home care companies to give them some information on Pencil, as we think he and his kind might make great companions for home care clients whenever a real caregiver or family member is not around.

Pencil can do quite a lot of things, like watch over a person, link patients to a hospital or emergency centre, provide medication reminders and create direct links to friends and family. It can detect falls and even watch out for a person during the night by using its infrared camera eyes.

Pencil, being an Asian robot, is pretty friendly looking. It looks a bit like a cartoon character. There is certainly nothing threatening about it, which is an important point, as we didn’t want it to scare people. When there is not a person or activity on the screen, it’s eyes blink and make it seem ready for action, but in a friendly way.

Did I mention that it plays games? It does. In fact, it is loaded with lots of games that range from action favourites to special games that help in cognitive memory training.

Perhaps you want to see an article from the newspaper or read an ebook. Pencil will read it to you, when you are tired or if you are sight impaired.

The blurry last picture in the series above shows Pencil’s big brother. Maybe we should name it Crayon (Dinsowsi in Thai) because it is bigger, after all. Crayon can actually walk with a patient. The person keeps a small device in his or her pocket or clipped to a piece of clothing and Crayon will happily follow. (There is even a bigger version coming that will be able to climb stairs.)

Pencil and its family of robot caregivstarting now tarting to become bona fide home care workers, helping real caregivers, family members and friends take care of people who cannot easily leave their homes. Available for duty 24 hours per day, these little guys are always ready to help clients live in their homes with more dignity.

Not every tech invention comes from Silicon Valley. There is a lot of work being done in Asia on better tools and programs for elder care. Pencil is just one example. My colleague’s presentation of Pencil in Toronto generated a lot of interest. Who knows, maybe Pencil will be working in Canada soon. Mind you, it will have to learn how to speak English and French first.

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