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The elderly of New York will be issued robots for companionship

Elderly New Yorkers will soon be given an assistant each. However, the assistants are not flesh and blood, as they are robots.

The elderly are often in need of assistance with daily living. However, many times, they live on their own. The state of New York plans to help out by handing out robots to more than 800 senior citizens.

While the robots cannot carry out physical tasks, they can work like Siri or Alexa. They can handle small talk, contacting friends and family, tracking exercise and medications, etc.

The robots are distributed by the New York State Office for the Aging, NYSOFA. The goal is to help combat the social seclusion of the older members of society. This phenomenon is becoming more evident, with over 14 million US inhabitants above 65 living alone. Experts expect this number to rise as the baby boomer generation gets older.

The robots are named ElliQ, made by an Israeli company called Intuition Robotics. They are designed to help address the problem of isolation by helping the elderly living alone to be more independent and offering companionship.

Speaking to The Verge, NYSOFA director Greg Olsen said, “Many features attracted us to ElliQ — that it is a proactive tool, remembers the interactions with the individual, focuses on health and wellness, stress reduction, sleep, hydration, etc. It focuses on what matters to individuals: memories, life validation, interactions with friends and families and promotes overall good health and well-being.”

The device comes in two pieces that are attached to one base. One part has a face looking like a lamp but actually contains a microphone and speakers. It glows and turns to face you when you speak to it. The other part is a touch-enabled tablet that displays pictures, does video calls, and provides more information during interactions.

Intuition Robotics deliberately went for a robotic look for ElliQ instead of a humanoid one to focus on conversational abilities. However, it claims ElliQ can offer empathy and even bond with the owner. It will remember details about the owner and fashion itself after them. In practical terms, ElliQ can tell jokes if the owner happens to like them or laughs a lot.

The Israel-based company has been working on ElliQ for years, but the robot will now be put to real-world usage with its deal with New York.

NYSOFA will identify the citizens who would benefit from ElliQ companionship based on some criteria. For example, the robot is designed for users aged 75 and above who can connect to a Wi-Fi. They must also be able to handle tech gadgets. However, the key metric is that they are isolated or lonely. Intuition Robotics will handle the installation and training for the receivers.

The deal’s total cost has not been made public, but the company rents out ElliQ for an upfront fee of $250 and a $30 monthly charge. However, NYSOFA bought the robots completely to be able to distribute them as it wished.

While robotic companionship for the elderly has its supporters, there are critics too. For instance, critics have pointed out that machines like ElliQ can dehumanize users. Others say they reflect the dwindling regard society has for the elderly. However, some studies have suggested this type of robot can improve the well-being of senior citizens. The NYSOFA could prove to be a valuable data source on the issue.

Written by HackerVibes

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