Guangzhou uses robot to help drug addicts recover

Cybernetic confidant: The Tianche No. E robot has the curious advantage of being easier for recovering addicts to talk to, hugely streamlining the rehab counselling process. —China Daily/Asia News Network

GUANGZHOU: The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has employed a talking robot to aid the rehabilitation of substance users through the use of human-machine counselling.

While robots elsewhere are made to blur the line between humans and machines, the robot in the capital of Guangdong province boasts a special appeal to addicts who find it embarrassing to talk to human community workers.

The “Tianche No. E”, which looks like a more cubical version of the Big Hero 6 character Baymax, started its tenure on Saturday at a community rehabilitation centre in Nansha District.

Aided by artificial intelligence algorithms and big data, the machine offers individual counselling, psychological evaluation and a reminder of urine tests.

It is co-developed by the district’s narcotics control commission as well as a Chinese technology firm to streamline the rehabilitation service, according to the narcotics commission.

After swiping an ID card and undergoing facial recognition, a user can start counselling, an important part of follow-up care after drug addiction treatment with the robot, which generates a report afterward.

“Traditional counselling may have problems like repetitive questioning, a complicated archiving process and a lack of analysis,” said Yang Qingqiu, deputy commander of the district anti-drug brigade, who lauded the “Tianche No. E” robot for reducing 80% of their paperwork.

Meanwhile, a former drug addict said that he felt better asking the robot questions that he found hard to ask when facing officials and community workers.

The commission said they have plans to utilise the same robot model at more community rehabilitation centres in the district.

— China Daily/Asia News Network

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