International Journal of Social Robotics

, Volume 10, Issue 5, pp 621–641 | Cite as

Supporting Human Autonomy in a Robot-Assisted Medication Sorting Task

  • Jason R. WilsonEmail author
  • Nah Young Lee
  • Annie Saechao
  • Linda Tickle-Degnen
  • Matthias Scheutz


Medication management is a significant challenge for older adults, and the resultant drug-related problems are linked with hospitalizations and increased need for nursing homes. In this work, we explored the role of a socially assistive robot for one aspect of medication management: sorting. Specifically, we proposed a human-centric approach towards the design of a robot assisting in a medication sorting task. The approach is based on the analyses of occupational therapists who are trained in evaluating and assisting older adults in important self-care skills and emphasizes the role of autonomy on the part of the person performing a medication sorting task. We developed and evaluated two robot prototypes that assist a person in a medication sorting task. In both prototypes, evaluated by students \((\hbox {N}=31)\) at an American university, we found that subjects voluntarily greeting the robot experienced the emotion of the interaction differently from non-greeters. Greeters of the physical robot gave a lower emotional rating of the interaction, whereas greeters of the virtual robot found the emotion of the experience to be better than the non-greeters.


Socially assistive robot Medication sorting Medication adherence Autonomy Occupational therapy 



This work was funded by NSF (Grant No. IIS-1316809).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason R. Wilson
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Nah Young Lee
    • 1
  • Annie Saechao
    • 1
  • Linda Tickle-Degnen
    • 1
  • Matthias Scheutz
    • 1
  1. 1.Tufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  2. 2.Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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