Nyc to Give Out ‘Robot Companions’ to Elderly

Elderly New Yorkers will live with ‘empathetic’ robots to address health issues caused by loneliness

New York state is distributing robot caretakers to some 800 older adults in an effort to combat the burgeoning epidemic of loneliness, the New York State Workplace for the Aging announced within a  press release   on Wednesday.

Manufactured by Israeli company Intuition Robotics, the ElliQ bots being dispersed to New Yorkers’ families are said to “ foster independence and provide support for older adults via daily check-ins, assistance with health and fitness goals and physical activities, connection to family and friends, and more . ” The program is supposedly aimed at combating loneliness, which a growing body of scientific studies has shown has detrimental health effects as bad or worse than smoking and obesity.

Noting the particular loneliness epidemic has only gotten worse with social distancing and other devastating federal government responses to Covid-19, the press release hails ElliQ a lot more human-like than other “ smart technologies , ” describing how the automatic robot “ proactively suggests activities and initiates conversations ” rather than merely responding to commands. The device uses AI to synthesize conversational prompts from facts gleaned from user input.  

About the dimension of a table lamp, using a tablet screen for displaying text and a round whitened moving “ mind ” featuring a glowing circle that oscillates while “ speaking , ” the ElliQ paths basic health metrics such as pulse and blood pressure, provides text, calling and e-mail functions, and tells what might pass for comedies in a human-contact-starved mind (“ What’s orange plus sounds like a parrot? The carrot ” ) in addition to remembering basic facts it later uses in order to initiate “ conversations ” with the user.   During beta-testing, the robot initiated 60% of interactions.  

Intuition Robotics CEO Dor Skuler has big programs for ElliQ, which he appears to see as a valid replacement for human companionship among the elderly, offering the incredibly elusive element of empathy missing from Alexa, Siri and other digital voice assistants. “ This is a character-based person, an entity that lives together with you , ” he informed the Washington Post when the robot was commercially launched in March. “ People who use ElliQ expect her to remember conversations, these people expect her to hold framework … to deal with the hard occasions and celebrate the great occasions. These are the things I think wish on the frontier of . ”

The 33 patents the company is rolling out – as well as the screenwriters who also reportedly devised the ElliQ’s ‘ character’ – have got apparently paid off, if the early users interviewed by the Blog post are any indication. 1 woman described her “ little family team ” in a phone call to her (human) daughter because consisting of “ my little dog, my ElliQ and me.

Except this little family group furthermore suggests products and services with which Instinct Robotics has paid partnerships.  

While ElliQ supposedly does not sell users’ data to 3rd parties, it’s not clear to what extent the company’s ‘ partners’ receive information from the gadget referring the user to their services. It shares health information with relatives and doctors based on “ permissions given , ” though decades clear where normal conversation ends and where “ health information ” begins. For example , if the user says she’s feeling stressed out, it remains to be seen whether her doctor will be notified, or ElliQ will merely try to cheer her up with the ‘ joke’.

Intuition Robotics is getting within on the ground floor of what is going to likely prove to be a lucrative industry, with $2. 9 million in New York’s 2023 state budget targeted at combating social isolation. The particular ElliQ program will divided that funding with NYSOFA’s “ animatronic dog initiative , ” which usually allegedly reduces self-reported isolation by 70% with robotic animals, a family caregiver support program, elder-focused ride-share services, and online communities. The agency’s primary focus is maintaining the elderly in their own homes for as long as possible – an especially serious health issue in Nyc, which saw some of the highest levels of care-home deaths due to Covid-19 in the US thanks to insurance policies that mandated housing coronavirus-infected patients with the bed-bound elderly.  

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