One of the biggest challenges many older adults face is loneliness. Nearly one-third of America's aging population lives alone, and because mobility is often difficult, getting out of the house for social engagements can sometimes seem impossible.
A new robot designed by Fuseproject, in collaboration with a team at Intuition Robotics, might just help older people feel a little less lonely.
Intuition Robotics, a startup specializing in social companion technologies, emerged from stealth to unveil ElliQ Wednesday, and is set to display it at London's Design Museum in a new exhibit called New Old.
ElliQ is a robotic companion with high emotional intelligence. It was designed to keep older people connected to technology, help them continue learning as they age, and potentially ease their loneliness.
"Ageism is rampant in our culture and many older adults report becoming invisible with age. This invisibility fosters feelings of loneliness even when surrounded by others," Kyrié Carpenter, a counselor psychologist and a non-fiction theater performer in Bill Thomas' Changing Aging Tour, told Seeker.
Carpenter emphasized that society often segregates elders from younger people, which worsens their loneliness.
"Just as with segregation on other diversity lines, the richness of life is diminished when we are only surrounded with people like us. This segregation exacerbates loneliness for all," she said.
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According to Fuseproject's website, ElliQ is designed to look good on a tabletop, while it also features subtle animations to bring it to life.
ElliQ speaks in natural, comfortable language and is intended to address the specific needs of older adults. It uses a software called Coach that listens to what the user wants to achieve, whether it be moving more, learning about a specific topic, or just staying connected to friends and family.
The robot can prompt you to call a friend or relative, read a book or watch a TED talk. If the weather is nice, it might suggest a walk. The idea is to maintain people's social and mental activity, which is crucial in preventing cognitive decline as we age.
WATCH: ELLIQ - The Active Aging Companion