Still, the caregivers were tentative. First, they wanted to check that the friendly looking robot, whose eyes lit up with orange, yellow and magenta lights when they got answers right, would first do no harm.
Ms. Poli wanted to make sure that none of its materials would interfere with a pacemaker. Viviana Casella, 58, a widow who looks after a father with dementia, asked whether there were robots that could physically move a person from the couch to the bed, a question that prompted some nightmare scenarios.
“I’d pull the plug,” Franca Barbieri, 69, said from the back of the room.
One caretaker asked whether the robot knew how to listen, because older people tell stories. Ms. Casella asked whether the robot could give a caretaker a break, “maybe to go food shopping.”
The robot’s operators assured the caregivers that the robot could help, but mostly in the realm of mental stimulation. Nao played a song and asked Ms. Casella to identify the singer. “Little Tony,” she said.
“Is tiramisu a sweet or a savory?” it quizzed Daniela Cottafavi, 65. “Romulus or Remus was the first king of Rome?”
When it had problems deciphering answers, something the students chalked up to different dialects, Ms. Cottafavi shouted, “We need to give it a hearing aid!”
By the end of the session, it had clearly won some of the caregivers over.
“You want to hug it,” said Annarita Caliumi.