AI robot 'friend' launched to chat and play games with lonely elderly

AI robot 'friend' launched to chat and play games with lonely elderly

By Sarah Knapton, science editor 11 JANUARY 2017 * 5:56PM

A talking robot which chats to elderly people, reminding them to take their medication and stay active, has been launched in London.

Elli.Q, which is one of the most advanced social companion robots in the world, has been designed to convey emotion through different speech tones, lights and body language to be as engaging as possible.

The little robot suggests activities such as reading, going for a walk, playing games to keep mentally active or phoning friends and family.

Elli.Q could never replace human interaction, but it can be an important motivating factor in keeping older adults healthy and active when living alone.
Yves Behar, founder of Fuseproject

And she is programmed to learn what her owner enjoys, gradually tailoring her programming to fit.

Elli.Q has been developed by Intuition Robotics to prevent older people feeling socially isolated, and keep them connected to family and friends.

The robot, which was launched at the Design Museum in London on Monday, suggests activities such as reading, listening to music or going for a walk and reminds users about appointments.

"Loneliness and social isolation are the result of longevity, and technology has made the problem worse by requiring older adults to learn new technical skills in order to accomplish the simplest of tasks," says Dor Skuler, CEO and Founder of Intuition Robotics.

"Our goal is to leverage a combination of our proprietary technology, gerontology know-how and elegant design toempower older adults to intuitively interact with technology and easily connect with content and loved ones, and pursue an active lifestyle.

"We like to think of her as part communication coordinator, part arbiter of lifelong learning and part coach. She's easy to talk to, simple to operate and understands her owner."

According to Age UK, nearly half of all people aged 75 and over live alone and more than a million say they always or often feel lonely . Thirty-six percent speak to less than one person a day and 11 per cent say they spent five days or more each month without seeing anyone.

Nearly half of older people 49 per cent of 65+ UK say that television or pets are their main form of company.

Elli.Q's design was created in collaboration with Yves Behar, founder of Fuseproject.  It is comprised of two separate elements, a 'social director' robot which sits alongside a tablet.

Mr Behar said: "The idea of having a robot companion is quite dystopian, especially for older generations.

"Through years of research, we were able to develop a design language and user experience that feels natural, with subtle expressions to develop a unique bond between Elli.Q and its owner.

"Elli.Q could never replace human interaction, but it can be an important motivating factor in keeping older adults healthy and active when living alone."

Intuition Robotics will be starting a trial phase in the homes of older adults in San Francisco in February 2017.


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