Older adults across New York State will be pleasantly surprised when they open their mail to find a new companion! The Daily Gazette is reporting on a state initiative of distributing more than 800 robots to older adults. The robot, named ElliQ, is considered a proactive care companion that uses artificial intelligence to build relationships with older adults while supporting their health. ElliQ asks how the person is feeling, inquires about how they slept, or shares jokes. ElliQ made a splash on outlets like the Today show, USA Today, and AARP, and is being labeled the “more empathetic version of Amazon’s Alexa.”
The goal of ElliQ is to provide a meaningful connection to older adults, while not infringing on their autonomy. The robot promotes independence, but also provides well-being support by checking in throughout the day on wellness and physical goals, and encourages connection to family and friends through a combination of voice commands and on-screen instructions. This highlights the point Greg Olsen, New York State Office for Aging director, made that ElliQ is a method to promote human connections rather than replacing them with artificial intelligence. When testing this robot, it was found that older adults engage with this robot about 20 times a day. This is important because with time, ElliQ learns their routines and interests, to develop a more genuine connection with the person.
ElliQ’s rollout also comes during a time when we have all learned the importance of tackling loneliness and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was during that pandemic that we all became a little more reliant on technology, and robots like ElliQ stand to prove just how interconnected humans can, or should, become with technology.
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Waite, A. (2022). State initiative will distribute more than 800 robots to help support older adults. The Daily Gazette. Accessed June 3rd 2022. https://dailygazette.com/2022/05/28/state-initiative-will-distribute-more-than-800-robots-to-help-support-older-adults/