Thursday, 19 January 2017

Robots to Keep the Elderly Engaged and Active in Care Homes

Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ is a social companion robot with the ability to covey emotion through the tone of voice it uses and even its body language!

It has been created to help older people stay connected with their family and friends and to help them maintain a healthy level of cognitive and social activity. The robot reminds people to take their medication and suggests activities such as reading, going for a walk, playing games or phoning friends and family.

ElliQ inspires participation in activities by proactively suggesting and instantly connecting older adults to digital content such as TED talks, music or audiobooks; recommending activities in the physical world including taking a walk, keeping appointments and taking medications on time; and connecting with family through technology such as chat bots linked to Facebook Messenger, helping the elderly overcome technological barriers to connecting with the world.

Using machine learning, the robot learns the preferences, behaviour and personality of its owner, and proactively recommends activities based on the individual’s history and recommendations.

It is hope that ElliQ will help older adults living in isolation who increasingly rely on technology rather than face-to-face interaction, yet often find the technology confusing. As well as those who report ‘severe loneliness’ living in a care home.

Over 80 per cent of older care home residents with mental health problems say they feel lonely in their care home and that this could be eased if staff were able to spend more time with them. Many enjoy the company of care home staff, but see their workload as preventative to further social interaction.

The idea of having a robot companion is quite dystopian, especially for older generations. But through years of research, the team developing ElliQ have been able to develop a language and user report feeling natural, with subtle expressions that help develop a unique bond between ElliQ and its owner. ElliQ is not designed to replace human interaction, but it could be an important motivating factor in keeping older adults healthy and active.

Dor Skuler, chief executive and founder of Intuition Robotics, said “[Our goal is] to empower older adults to intuitively interact with technology and easily connect with content and loved ones, and pursue an active lifestyle.”

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

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