ELLI-Q is an A.I.-based robot companion meant to help seniors connect to the outside world more easily. ELLI-Q is an A.I.-based robot companion meant to help seniors connect to the outside world more easily. ELLI-Q is an A.I.-based robot companion meant to help seniors connect to the outside world more easily. (Photo: ELLI-Q)

A new way to keep your grandparents from getting lonely

ELLI-Q is an artificial intelligence-based robot companion that keeps older adults active and engaged.

We live in an increasingly connected world. Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, richer and more engaging.

But for all that to work, we have to know how to use it. And unfortunately, a growing population of aging Americans is finding it harder than ever to make technology work for them. For many, that translates to feelings of loneliness, isolation and hopelessness.

But what if said technology wasn't so difficult for older adults to learn? What if, instead of you having to learn how to work with technology, the technology was built to learn how to work with you – and it succeeded?

That's the idea behind ELLI-Q, an artificial intelligence robot companion developed by Israel-based Intuition Robotics. The device "intentionally avoids the look and feel of a traditional robot" and "seamlessly enables older adults to use a vast array of technologies, including video chats, online games and social media to connect with families and friends and overcome the complexity of the digital world," according to the robot's founders.

For those who struggle to sort through the array of possible activities available to them, ELLI-Q can proactively suggest and instantly connect users to digital content such as TED talks, music or audiobooks; recommending activities like taking a walk or going for a swim; keeping appointments and taking medications on time; and connecting with family through technology.

A trial phase will begin in the San Francisco Bay Area this February. But before that, the Design Museum in London will showcase a prototype of ELLI-Q as part of its "New Old: Designing for our Future Selves" exhibition, starting today.

Dor Skuler, CEO and co-founder of Intuition Robotics, said the ultimate goal of ELLI-Q is "to empower older adults to intuitively interact with technology and easily connect with content and loved ones, and pursue an active lifestyle."

(From left:) Roy Amir, Itai Mendelsohn and Dor Skuler, the three Israeli entrepreneurs behind the new device.(From left:) Roy Amir, Itai Mendelsohn and Dor Skuler, the three Israeli entrepreneurs behind the new device. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

“We like to think of her as part communication coordinator, part facilitator of lifelong learning and part coach," Skuler continued. "She’s easy to talk to, intuitive to operate and understands her owner.”

ELLI-Q’s developers – including industrial design firm Fuseproject, responsible for the device's sleek, innovative look – stressed that the device is not meant to replace human interaction. It can, however, be "an important motivating factor in keeping older adults healthy and active when living alone,” says Yves Béhar, Fuseproject's chief designer.

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