In this episode of the Ikigai Podcast, Nick speaks with Natasha Randall about how technology can support people in feeling more ikigai in their lives.
Having multiple ikigai sources
“So I never really thought about my ikigai sources until you hear the word ikigai, and then it's all you can think about. I would say for me, I have multiple sources of ikigai. One thing that really provides me with a sense of it is looking back on my day and knowing I've accomplished something.
Another thing that gives me ikigai is dancing. So just living in that experience in the body, getting lost in it, completely engaging in that activity. And that also lends itself to progress as well.” - Natasha Randall
Natasha Randall is a Ph.D. candidate in the Informatics Department at Indiana University. Her work focuses on human-robot interaction, specifically consumer-oriented social home robot design where she fuses elements of design, user experience, and market research.
Her interest lies in applying a strategic design approach to use cases meant for individual growth or social good, such as applications for improving mental health, social isolation, nutrition, habit information, and education. Additionally, she’s interested in how personal robots can be used to teach foreign languages, especially within the home.
Website - randallnatasha.com
Research on human-robot interaction. At 2:31, Natasha shares what attracted her to research on human-robot interaction.
Learning about ikigai. At 4:27, Natasha shares how she stumbled upon the concept of ikigai.
Three levels of ikigai. At 8:22, Natasha explains why ikigai can be incorporated into technology.
Lack of ikigai for older adults. Nick and Natasha discuss the reason behind the lack of ikigai among many older adults, at 15:33.
The use of robots to support older adults. At 21:24, Natasha explains how robots aid older adults.
Robot perception. At 38:54, Natasha shares how her survey participants perceive robots.
Ikigai robot. At 40:38, the two talk about what needs to be considered in designing an ikigai robot.
Possible risks from technology. At 52:46, Nick and Natasha discuss some concerns regarding technological advancement.
Natasha’s ikigai. At 59:38, Natasha shares what her ikigai is.
Research on human-robot interaction
Natasha's journey towards studying human-robot interaction began when she realized her passion for psychology. As a result, she pursued a study, “Finding ikigai: How robots can support meaning in later life”, funded by the Toyota Research Institute. The study's theme of ikigai, the Japanese concept of meaning and significance, became a pivotal point in exploring how technology can promote well-being.
In her paper, Natasha related ikigai to meaning and significance.
“It seems from our research that ikigai translates best to meaning and significance. What makes your life significant or worthwhile.”
Three levels of ikigai
According to Natasha, ikigai has three different levels that can be used to expand the study of technology to promote well-being. These are:
Personal ikigai - things related to yourself that give you a sense of ikigai.
Second person ikigai - your relationship with family and friends.
Third person ikigai - your relationship with your community.
Lack of ikigai for older adults
Natasha’s study focuses on older adults because many of them tend to lack a sense of ikigai. As people get older, they transition from having significant roles to having more free time, often resulting in a loss of ikigai sources. With this increase in free time, new ways of finding and maintaining ikigai sources needs to be realised. Robots can assist older adults in this cause.
“I think it highlights the importance of roles. We all have roles, multiple roles – professional and family roles. And I guess in a way if you lose both, you'd wake up thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ And maybe, to some degree, hobbies don't fully satisfy a person's sense of purpose.” - Nicholas Kemp
The use of robots to support older adults
There are two classifications of robots that can help an elderly person: physically and socially assistive robots.
The physically assistive robots assist with mobility.
Socially assistive robots are used for communication.
Social robots that have been designed to help older adults include:
ElliQ - a minimally anthropomorphic robot; used to increase social interactions with proximate connections.
Paro - a zoomorphic seal robot; often used for decreasing loneliness in older adults.
Mabu - a healthcare robot; used to help patients dealing with chronic illness.
Each of them is used to cater to older adults and influence a positive change.
In her study, Natasha finds out that people who lived with others had a positive perception of robots compared to those who lived alone. Those who live alone might find it intruding on their personal space, hence, they don’t see having robots as a necessity.
According to Natasha, one thing to consider when designing an ikigai robot is to build rapport between the robot and the person. Moreover, the robot must gain enough information about the person – what gives that person a feeling of ikigai, so that it can also give suggestions of other possible sources of ikigai tailored specifically for them.
“How do we think about increasing sources or the feeling of ikigai? It's not always necessary that people need new sources of ikigai. Just the appreciation or reflection on potential sources of ikigai they have in their life can potentially be enough to increase ikigai as well.” - Natasha Randall
Possible risks from technology
Although there are a lot of benefits to using technology for older adults’ well-being, there are also some concerns. These include:
How caregivers and older adults perceive using advanced technology; there is a boundary between what people accept and what they don’t.
There are also technological limitations; these technologies require maintenance which can lead to more work for caregivers.
The thought of having accomplished something is one thing that gives Natasha a feeling of ikigai. Additionally, she considers dancing as another source of ikigai – that creative expression of being completely lost in the experience with every movement.
As we age, it's natural to seek out new sources of ikigai to maintain a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life. Technology can be a valuable tool in this pursuit, as the field of human-robot interaction has shown us. By studying how robots can promote well-being, dedicated researchers like Natasha Randall are exploring new possibilities for coexisting with technology to help us find meaningful sources of ikigai. With their work, there is hope for a future where technology can enhance our lives and help us to lead more fulfilling and meaningful existences.