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Labrador Systems deploys its first assistive elder-care robots

We’ve been keeping tabs on Labrador Systems since we caught a very early demo of its elder care-focused technology in a hotel suite several CESes ago. Today the California-based robotics firm announced that it’s begun deploying its Retriever Pro system to a handful of early clients, including, On Lok PACE, Nationwide Insurance, Masonic Homes of California, Western Homes Communities, Eskaton, The Perfect Companion, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan, University of Michigan Flint and Graceworks Lutheran Services.

The news follows extended piloting for the system in places like senior living communities. The Retriever Pro is designed to bring a kind of assistive freedom to people living on their own with mobility limitations. It’s a clever technology that effectively amounts to a semi-autonomous mobile shelving system that can be used to deliver objects they might otherwise have issues carrying.

“The burden on caregivers is growing at a rate that is simply not sustainable. Organizations are already experiencing major caregiver shortages, and in the coming years there will be significantly more people in my parents’ age group (85+) with fewer people to help take care of them,” CEO Mike Dooley said in a release tied to the news. “Our mission is to provide relief on both sides of that equation, empowering individuals who need care to do more on their own while extending the impact of each caregiver’s visit well beyond the time they are physically present.”

Image Credits: Labrador

The world of elder-care robotics is still fairly nascent in the U.S. Japan may have the largest head start in the category due, in part, to its aging population, but the concept has been growing in acceptance. A number of firms working to design more all-purpose systems have pointed to living assistance as a potential application, but currently the robotic market isn’t exactly flush with this tech.

The company says it also “continues to move forward with development and testing” of its more consumer-focused system, the Retriever. Dooley clarified the difference between the two in a comment to TechCrunch, noting:

The key added features for the Pro are for bringing caregivers and staff into the loop and overall supporting the care provider on their mission.  A portion of that is on the software side, with integration with enterprise grade solutions for care management. So for example, caregiving organizations could have multiple users log on to set schedules for the robot, check activity reports and remotely assist with the robot operation. On the hardware side, we'd have more options for carrying and powering a 3rd party tablet or other screen device that the care organization may already be using, to move that device through the home. The Pro will also have provisions for supporting cellular connectivity as an upgrade.