Former Robot Wars resident expert Professor Noel Sharkey is worried that robots will replace carers and their use pose a danger to the elderly.

The University of Sheffield robotics professor has travelled round the world looking at how robots can be used around the home.

He believes advancements should be looked upon with caution and has established Responsible Robotics, a group of 20 experts focusing on the ethics of the technology.

“My big worry is that if this technology gets really good and really cheap we shouldn’t see it replacing carers,” he told BusinessCloud.

“In Japan they’re worried about companionship so they’re using robotic companions, which is a bad idea as far as I’m concerned because there are issues around privacy and around hacking.

“There are also scenarios where, for example, your ageing aunt may open the front door and you’re worried about her walking into the road.

“If you have a household robot that can stop her, that robot has essentially become her jailer.”

He cites a range of assistive technology he has witnessed in Japan – a bed that turns into a wheelchair via voice command, robotic hands that wash hair and spoon-feeding machines that sit on a person’s lap.

His particular favourite is Cyberdyne’s exoskeleton – Hal – that clips onto your legs or upper body and, reading nerve signals, enables less able people to walk and use their arms.

Sharkey believes the upper body suit could be used by nurses to lift patients, allowing them more dignity that when hoists are used.

“It costs around £60,000 at the minute but they’ve been using them in Japan for the last few years and that’s a technology I think we should be putting money into in the UK,” he says.

“It all sounds like science fiction, but it’s not far off in my view.”

BusinessCloud recently reported on the range of gadgets which can keep our elderly relatives and friends safe