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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Groundbreaking AI Tech Could Improve Quality of Life for Older Adults

Tech startup Intuition Robotics has unveiled an artificial intelligence-based robot companion designed to improve the quality of life of the elderly populations.

Until now, most AI companions — such as those created by Google and Amazon — have largely been focused on providing assistance. Intuition Robotics' ElliQ, on the other hand, aims to enrich the lives of its users — keeping them active and engaged, thereby reducing loneliness.

The robot, whose design intentionally avoids the look and feel of a traditional robot, enables users to make video calls, play online games and interact with friends and family on social media. ElliQ inspires participation in activities by proactively suggesting and connecting older adults to digital content, such as TED talks, music and audiobooks, and uses machine learning to learn the preferences, behavior and personality of her owner.

Additionally, the new AI technology recommends activities in the physical world, like taking a walk after watching television for a prolonged period of time, keeping appointments, taking medications on time and connecting with family and friends.

Using what Intuition Robotics dubs “Natural Communication,” such as body language that conveys emotion, speech interface, sounds, lights and images to express herself, ElliQ is emotive, autonomous and easily understood.

“The idea of having a robot companion is quite dystopian, especially for older generations,” said Yves Béhar, CEO of Fuseproject — a design studio that collaborated with Intuition Robotics on the ElliQ.

“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 ElliQ and its owner,” he added.

Béhar says that while the robot can’t replace human interaction, it can offer a companion to elderly people living alone, and be a motivating factor in keeping them healthy and active. According to Age U.K., nearly half of all people aged 75 and over live alone, and more than a third say they speak to less than one person a day. Keeping older adults both physically and mentally active has incredible health and cognitive benefits.

“Our goal is to leverage a combination of our proprietary technology, gerontology know-how and elegant design to empower older adults to intuitively interact with technology and easily connect with content and loved ones, and pursue an active lifestyle,” said Dor Skuler, CEO and founder of Intuition Robotics. “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.”

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