Email signup

Robot helpers planned for upcoming senior living high-rise in Tysons

Mather Director of Culinary Operations Thad Parton with a food-running robot that the senior living facility operator is testing in Arizona (courtesy Mather)

When The Mather Tysons opens in 2024, the senior living facility might employ some workers of the artificial intelligence variety.

Rest assured, these robots won’t be capable of planning a HAL 9000-style takeover. Instead, they will perform simple, repetitive tasks, such as delivering food to tables and apartments and cleaning hallways.

“Our hope is that it helps us retain team members, that they’ll recognize that we’ve gone kind of the extra step to provide them a level of assistance they may not get elsewhere in similar roles,” Mather Director of Culinary Operations Thad Parton told FFXnow.

Inspired by its founder’s work as an inventor, Mather’s plans to introduce robots to its senior living residences precede the pandemic.

According to Parton, Mather CEO and President Mary Leary asked him to explore robotics a couple of years ago as a potential way to boost service levels. After some research and conversations with vendors, he had identified a unit that would deliver food to residents’ apartments autonomously when COVID-19 arrived.

Once the worst of the pandemic’s initial surge dissipated, the nonprofit launched a pilot of the delivery robot at its life plan community in Evanston, Illinois, but as more people started eating in the dining room instead of taking food out, Parton realized his team’s needs had changed.

“The delivery robot was not as important to us as providing additional support to our dining services team, so we pivoted to testing a food-running robot,” he said, noting that the machines have become increasingly popular throughout the food service industry as restaurants adjust to an exodus of workers.

Earlier this spring, Mather deployed a food-running bot from Bear Robotics at its Splendido community in Tucson, Arizona, for a four-week pilot.

Capable of carrying 66 pounds with three trays and a built-in bussing pan, the robot transports plates of food from the facility’s kitchen to the dining room and then brings the empty dishes back to the kitchen.

“Human servers unload and serve the meals delivered by the robot, and load it up for return to kitchen,” Mather said. “This saves time for servers, who can now spend more time in the restaurant with residents.”

Mather explained exactly how the robot works:

A technician from Bear Robotics mapped out the kitchen, dining area, and route in between, and programmed in the stopping points (stations). Because of traffic patterns and layout of the dining area, Splendido decided it was best to have the robot deliver to any of six stations in the room. A server can then collect and serve out the food…

The robot’s navigation system is very precise, and it will go around stationary objects (including people) and pause and wait if someone is moving toward it. Its speed can be adjusted, and will probably end up at .9 MPH.

So far, the robot has been a hit with residents, but staff have had some reservations, according to Parton.

Since the technology remains relatively new, the robot can glitch and sometimes runs into issues when navigating the environment. Transitions between different kinds of flooring, from tile to carpet, for instance, “are kind of bumpy,” Parton says.

“It doesn’t always perform as designed, and when it does that, it frustrates the team,” he said. “That frustration turns into a feeling like it’s more work than it’s worth.”

Overall, though, Parton says the robot has worked as advertised, and Mather plans to test a different model once the current pilot concludes. Based on those tests, the company will choose a model that it hopes to utilize in all four of its residences, including the Tysons apartment high-rises that are now under construction on Westpark Drive.

In fact, The Mather in Tysons has been designed with the possibility of robot occupants in mind. If all goes according to plan, the 300-unit residence will host not just runner robots, but also the delivery units and an autonomous vacuuming robot that’s being tested in Evanston.

“The new construction will ideally accommodate them, with features like flat thresholds for smooth transitions between flooring types, as well as elevator integration so robots can potentially make deliveries to apartment homes,” Parton said.

Recent Stories

Seven restaurants in Fairfax County are part of this year’s Washingtonian’s 100 Very Best Restaurants list. The restaurants that earned a coveted spot include: A&J Restaurant in Annandale Aracosia in…

A preview of summer at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts has arrived. More than 50 artists have been scheduled for the upcoming season at the Filene Center…

Jos A. Bank has officially closed its doors in Reston Town Center. A primary care practice — One Medical — will take over the former location of the men’s clothing…

Laura Schwartz is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates in Vienna. You can follow Laura on Instagram at @LauraSchwartzRealtor or her Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or Laura@GuidingYourMove.com. The…

Need help dealing with anxiety, depression or stress?

If you’re struggling to cope with anxiety, depression or stress, our virtual psychotherapy services can help. We offer a confidential and convenient service that’s tailored to your needs.

In our practice, cognitive behavioral therapy (or CBT) is an important tool we use to provide effective relief for those facing anxiety and depression. We believe that cognitive change can be used to improve behaviors and emotions, thus allowing you to achieve mental wellness. By understanding the cognitive distortions that lead to negative thought patterns, we are able to create interventions tailored to each of our clients. This empowering approach can help you gain control of how your own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors impact your experience. With CBT, our service provides an effective treatment that can bring long-term change and mental stability.

Book a free consultation today and see how we can help you live a happier and healthier life.

Read More

Submit your own Community Post here.

×

Subscribe to our mailing list