health mind and body

Israeli robots: Companions for 800 NY seniors


Desktop robots developed by an Israeli startup are to become care companions for 800 seniors in New York.

ElliQ, who takes her name from the Norse goddess of old age, actively initiates conversations, remembers what she’s been told and uses artificial intelligence to inform follow-up conversations.

Amazon’s Alexa is passive, ElliQ is active. She plays trivia games, encourages the user to exercise, reminds them to take their medicine, makes sure they’re eating properly, keeps them in touch with family and friends, selects music tracks and even tells jokes.

She’ll also raise an alert with clinical teams if she notices anything of concern in the user’s routine. And she has a “face” that lights up and swivels towards the user.

The technology has been developed by Intuition Robotics, based in Ramat Gan, which pioneers social companion technologies. It says it’s on a mission to empower older adults to live happier, healthier, and more independent lives at home.

The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) has recognized the benefits of ElliQ and is delivering the voice-operated robots to 800 older people who live alone, as part of its effort to battle social isolation.

“This product does so many things to improve health, combat isolation, and improve overall well-being and independence,” said NYSOFA director Greg Olsen.

“Despite misconceptions and generalizations, older adults embrace new technology, especially when they see it is designed by older adults to meet their needs,” said Olsen. “For those who experience some form of isolation and wish to age in place, ElliQ is a powerful complement to traditional forms of social interaction and support from professional or family caregivers.”

NYSOFA will work with local offices for the aging and partners to identify those who will benefit most from having ElliQ in their home.

ElliQ launched commercially in March, after five years of research and beta testing. Users so far are averaging 20 interactions a day.

“We’ve long believed that connecting older adults with local communities via ElliQ will add an important element in providing holistic support to older adults aging in place,” said Intuition Robotics CEO and co-founder Dor Skuler. “This partnership with NYSOFA helps us further that mission through an innovative initiative that we are incredibly proud to be part of.”

ElliQ is designed to foster independence through daily check-ins and she can exchange text messages, conduct video calls and display photos.

She’s designed to be emotive, autonomous and easily understood. She uses machine learning to acquire knowledge of the preferences, behavior and personality of her owner, and proactively recommends activities based on that history and on recommendations by family.