AI Robot Companion Wants to Keep Old People Company

ElliQ AI assistant old people Alexa
ElliQ is an "active aging companion" aimed at making elderly people feel less lonely. Intuition Robotics

Tech startup Intuition Robotics unveiled an artificial intelligence-based robot companion that aims to improve the quality of life of elderly people on Wednesday.

ElliQ markets itself as an alternative to other AI companions that the likes of Google and Amazon have launched for the home.

Like the Amazon Echo, the robot has a voice-activated control system and it enables users to make video calls, play online games and interact on social media. It also uses machine learning to learn the preferences of the user and make recommendations for digital content, such as music and audiobooks.

"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. 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.

"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."

A trial of the ElliQ robot is set to take place in the homes of elderly people in the Bay Area of San Francisco in February.