New desktop robot provides intelligent companionship to seniors, carries conversations & tells jokes

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Technology can sometimes leave people behind because devices are too difficult for some to master. However, a robot with artificial intelligence is trying not only to bridge the learning gap with seniors, but also provide them with companionship, simply by lending an empathetic ear.

The ElliQ is an example of the new frontier for robots -- helping seniors to use technology to maintain their independence as they age at home.

With the help of artificial intelligence, the tabletop device listens as a human companion might, and provides empathetic responses.

"We wanted to create a real companion, and that means that this product needs to feel like it has a mind of its own," said Intuition Robotics CEO & co-founder Dor Skuler.

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Six years of research enabled Intuition Robotic's ElliQ to be tailored for older adults who may not be adept at using robotic technology, yet it does far more than smart speakers, like Alexa, which simply execute commands. It listens and responds differently.

"Remembering what people tell you, using that in future conversations, showing them that you acknowledge what they said, showing them that you listen and take that into account in planning future interactions with that individual," said Skuler.

The speaker was designed in San Francisco and Israel. Its face lights up when having a conversation. It offers exercise routines and plays trivia games to enhance physical and mental prowess. And yes, it also tells jokes.

"I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. It's impossible to put down," quipped ElliQ.

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There's a growing care gap facing seniors and their families. ElliQ tries to provide isolated seniors with solutions, such as going to a doctor's appointment.

"How are you going to get to the doctor's office?" ElliQ asked. "Can we order you Uber?"

ElliQ also has video conferencing so families can see how their loved ones are doing. Intuition Robotics says three-fourths of seniors in their 70's and 80's were able to set up ElliQ on their own in five or 10 minutes. There's an initial cost of $250 plus a $30 monthly subscription fee.

"Bye for now," ElliQ said as she took a break.

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