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June 25, 2019

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‘Counselor’ robot helps recovery of drug addicts

The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has deployed a talking robot to aid the rehabilitation of substance abusers in Guangdong Province.

The “Tianche No. E,” which looks like a cubical Baymax, has started its tenure at a community rehabilitation center in Nansha District.

While robots elsewhere are made to blur the line between humans and machines, this robot has a special appeal to addicts who often find it embarrassing to talk to community workers.

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

It was codeveloped by the district’s narcotics control commission and a Chinese tech firm to streamline the rehab service.

After swiping an ID card and undergoing facial recognition, a user can start counseling, an important part of the followup care after drug addiction treatment. The robot generates a report afterward.

“Traditional counseling may have problems such as repetitive questions, a complicated process of archiving and a lack of analysis,” said Yang Qingqiu, deputy commander of the district’s anti-drug brigade.

He said the robot had reduced 80 percent of their paperwork.

A former drug addict said he felt better answering questions through a robot than with officials and community workers.

There are plans to deploy the robot at more rehab centers.


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