Home assistance robots are still a far cry from the futuristic vision companies like Tesla have imagined for us, but they can be legitimately helpful in some circumstances. New York State has found one robot, in particular, that’s meant to help older people feel connected to their loved ones — and it’s giving them out for free.
This is ElliQ, a robot tasked with being a “friendly presence” in its owner’s daily life. The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) is partnering with ElliQ’s parent company, Israel-based Intuition Robotics, to give out 800 ElliQs to older residents in the state.
“The product does so many things to improve health, combat isolation, and improve overall well-being and independence,” NYSOFA director Greg Olsen said in a press release. “Designed with input from older adults, the future of supporting and serving older adults includes technology. The future is here.”
Meet ElliQ — ElliQ’s most important feature is its simplicity. This isn’t a robot that’s going to run all over the house completing chores — and that’s a good thing.
ElliQ is all about independence. The robot is programmed to interact with users using natural speech patterns, rather than simply listening for a preset list of commands. It encourages owners to set goals, play cognitive games, and exercise both their bodies and minds.
Like a smart assistant, ElliQ can complete specific tasks like booking ride-shares and setting reminders; it can also be used to easily send messages to friends and family in case of an emergency. The robot makes it easy to start and answer video calls, too.
ElliQ isn’t just an Alexa substitute, though — it’s meant to be more of a companion. A proactive one, at that. ElliQ will initiate conversations and make personalized suggestions without prompting. For tasks that could be completed with other smart devices, ElliQ simplifies the process. No need to teach your grandparents how to use FaceTime anymore.
Case-by-case for now — ElliQ’s uniquely proactive artificial intelligence will be most useful for older NY residents who could use a daily check-in and an extra push to keep loved ones informed of their overall wellness. It’s peace of mind for older residents and their caregivers alike.
NYSOFA points out in its press release that the U.S. Surgeon General said back in 2017 that social isolation is an epidemic, adding approximately $6.7 billion to the Medicare budget every year. This ElliQ program is a direct attempt to combat that epidemic — which has surely only grown worse since 2017.
Case managers at NYSOFA will approve requests for a free ElliQ based on the applicant’s age, Wi-Fi access, and a few questions meant to determine how isolated they are. An Intuition Robotics official will then install the robot and assist with training.