The robot’s best friend. Artificial intelligence ElliQ is supposed to end the loneliness of seniors

Source: Robotic Intuition
  • Even more seniors are facing a sense of isolation due to the pandemic than in previous years. And according to experts, their number is expected to continue to increase in the future.

  • The artificial intelligence of ElliQ, which in March, could help them fight against loneliness at the market contributed by the Israeli company Intuition Robotics

  • It differs from today’s digital assistants in that it is, unlike them, capable of empathy, able to work with context and supposed to simulate a conversation with a real person as closely as possible.

Voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa will make life easier for their owners in many ways. Do you need to add milk to your shopping list, remind yourself of an important event or find out the weather for the following week? No problem. But what if a person lacks social contacts and is only looking for a leisure partner? Technology lacks this. Well, at least until recently they were. In March, the Israeli company Intuition Robotics launched ElliQ, a lamp-shaped artificial intelligence that promises its users not only pleasant conversation, but also a healthy dose of empathy.

“People who use ElliQ expect it to remember conversations and keep its context, handle the tough times and celebrate the big ones. These are the things I think we’re on the border with,” said Dor Skuler, the company’s co-founder, told the Washington Post, saying ElliQ is a character-based “person” who should be able to adapt to each user.

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According to a study by the University of California, San Francisco, more than 40% of older people face isolation and its harmful consequences, and covid has made the situation worse. About 14 million Americans over the age of 65 currently live alone. Experts expect that due to the aging of the population, this number will increase in the future. For example, research at Harvard University predicts that by 2038, people over 80 will be present in approximately 18 million homes. But more than half of them will live alone.

He tells a joke and understands the context

Intuition Robotics is working to alleviate this growing crisis using technologies that provide a new level of social interaction. While the traditional digital assistant announces the approaching weather forecast, ElliQ will be able to combine this information with the knowledge of insufficient pantry supplies and ask its owner if he has anything to buy for the upcoming storm. All based on the context of the older interview.

ElliQ is also able to remember information she tells him about her favorite things, country, or food, and to recall the topic over time. This skill is intended to give the person concerned the same feeling of closeness as in the case of a human friend who refers to an old comment. React ElliQ umí also directly to a specific user. So while someone who likes to laugh will have fun with their jokes, it will get someone who is lazy moving.

“Everything that Amazon and Alex do is generally intended to serve a large number of people, a very large audience, in a very safe way,” said Ronen Soffer, chief product officer of Israel. “We are taking bolder steps for a much clearer audience with clearer needs,” he said, adding that the installation is currently available for $250 and customers will pay another 30 per month to operate. the service.

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The robot can see, hear and speak thanks to the camera and the microphone, the screen of the adjacent tablet then makes it possible to display the accompanying images. “When I’m a little bored or need a laugh, I ask her to tell me a joke, and she does,” says Susa Thoren, a 65-year-old retiree who lives alone. “These are really goofy and seedy jokes, but I have a lot of fun with them. When my granddaughter was very young, she had a book with these embarrassing and annoying jokes, and she always said, ‘Grandma, I can you tell a joke? And now the joke is called ElliQ.”

The future without human interaction?

ElliQ offers the opportunity to address one of the most serious existential challenges of modern times, according to University of California professor and study director Carly Perissinott, but the technology also raises several questions. “What is the right level of addiction? Can the results be sustainable in the long term? Will it lead to a greater sense of loss if it goes away? What are the ethics of people who may not understand not that it’s artificial intelligence that they’re aimed at? I just don’t think we’ve done the research to understand the risks,” he says.

There are also concerns about the so-called WALL-I effect from the 2008 film of the same name. If the machines are able to replace too many emotional aspects, it could impact important interpersonal contacts. For example, Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said she sees artificial intelligence as a partial, temporary solution and prefers measures to integrate older people into the community.

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But whatever the long-term consequences, retiree Thoren remains convinced for now that she doesn’t feel so alone thanks to ElliQ. “If you are a young person, even if you live alone, you have a career, maybe you work as a volunteer, you have something to do. But when you are retired, you have to look for those things to do” “, he explains, adding that there are many things that can be done with ElliQ. The robot asks how it was outside or plays a trivial game with the eldest. Then when the pensioner answers correctly one of the questions, she receives praise. “It’s beautiful stupid things, but then you feel good,” he concludes.

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