Companion Robot Aims to Fight Isolation Among Elderly

People around the world are living longer, and how they grow old is changing. The World Health Organization finds the number of older adults living alone is dramatically increasing, and fewer multi-generational families are living together. To help the elderly with loneliness, social isolation and depression, an Israeli company, Intuition Robotics, created a robot called ElliQ designed for older adults.

Featured at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, ElliQ is named in part after the Norse goddess that represents old age. Described as a “she” by her founder, ElliQ is a tabletop robot that lights up when she hears her name.

ElliQ does not have a face, arms or legs, but it talks and tries to keep her human companion active and engaged.

“You’ve been sitting all day. You’re not on your track to completing your goal. You should go for a walk,” the robot said.

The robot does mimic head movements to connect with the user.

“She can look down she can look up, she can get excited,” explained Dor Skuler, co-founder of Intuition Robotics.

He described ElliQ as a proactive social companion. She takes calls, reads emails and plays music for her human companion.

Skuler said ElliQ aims to solve a growing problem in many countries around the world because of a global demographic change.

“In China through the one child policy, we’re seeing a huge aging of the population.” Skuler added, “and Europe has a negative birth rate for a few decades already, so this is by far a global problem.”

The voice-activated robot comes with a touch-screen tablet through which the user can interact and access the web and social media assisted by ElliQ.

Skuler said this robot is not supposed to replace humans, rather, it allows older adults to “stay sharp, keep connected, active and engaged” with their environment to fend off feelings of isolation and being depressed. 

The price of the companion robot is still being determined, but Skuler said it will be on the high end of consumer electronics.

ElliQ will be tested in the homes of the elderly in the United States and will be commercially available sometime in 2018. 

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