Updated: Feb 24
Intuition Robotics, an Israeli company, commercially released ElliQ after a long beta-use period. Billed as an AI companion for the elderly, ElliQ offers soothing encouragement, invitations to games, gentle health prodding, music thoughts and, most important, a friendly voice that learns a person’s ways and comforts them in their solitude.
“This is a character-based person, an entity that lives with you,” said Dor Skuler, Intuition’s CEO and co-founder. “People who use ElliQ expect her to remember conversations, they expect her to hold context to deal with the hard times and celebrate the great times. These are the things I think we’re on the frontier of.” Thanks to its camera and mic, the lamp-like robot can see, hear and talk, while its adjacent tablet screen allows for accompanying images. The device costs $250; the monthly service, $30.
Products like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are designed as assistants, largely meant to cut through the debris of younger people’s cluttered lives. ElliQ is designed as a companion, largely meant to fill the emptiness of lives long lived. By promising that most elusive of human commodities — empathy — ElliQ could either solve the growing plague of senior loneliness or fling us right into the dystopic robot-buddy chasm.
A study by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies predicts that by 2038 there will be 18 million households with people over the age of 80. More than half of them will live alone. Intuition and related companies such as care.coach aim to address this growing crisis (and market) by using technology to offer a new level of intimacy. Intuition worked with screenwriters to create a “character”, and ElliQ initiated 60% of interactions, of which only 5% were command-and-control.