What if the future of technology made us feel less alone?

We’ve seen the headlines, we’ve listened to our friends rant, we’ve witnessed dinner tables with families staring at their screens. It seems that technology is making us feel more alone, right? What about older adults who already experience feelings of loneliness and isolation leading to depression and illness? Can technology be any help to them?

While technology may appear to be driving us to our own fortresses of solitude, that doesn’t have to be our future. In fact, there’s one company that has designed a robot specifically built to fight loneliness.

Image: Elliq robot for older individuals sitting next to a user

Courtesy of Intuition Robotics

Meet ElliQ, a robot built by Intuition Robotics to act as companion, assistant, and confidant for older adults. This robot isn’t like your typical Google Home or Amazon Echo, it’s made to decrease the feelings of loneliness and isolation among older adults.

While estimates are now thought to be higher, as of the last U.S. Census, 28% of people 65 and older live alone. And there’s science here that suggest this could be a major problem. Seniors that experience loneliness and isolation have a 59% higher risk of mental and physical decline. Furthermore, loneliness can even increase the risk of dementia by more than 60%. 1

This is where Intuition Robotics is stepping in.

ElliQ is built with human interaction in mind and meant to engage, and act as a companion to its users. Among its many features like reminders, fun facts, and playing music, ElliQ helps encourage easy interaction with loved ones; helping users send and receive calls, messages, videos, and pictures to stay easily connected.

“ElliQ encourages a connected, active and engaged lifestyle for older adults while making technology accessible and intuitive to use.”-Intuition Robotics, Jan 7, 2019 Press Release 2

Intuition Robotics has taken a fascinating path to make ElliQ a reality. Before launching ElliQ, they worked with older adults ages 62-97 to hear their feedback and get their input. And this approach is pretty unique. Instead of just assuming what would work, the relatively young design team worked directly with their target market, taking a “listening and learning” based approach. 3

So, what did they come up with? And is it really possible for technology to have an impact on people’s lives in a profound way? Bloomberg published a fascinating video where we get to meet some of those user testers and one of the designers on the ELLiQ team. Let’s take a look.

If you want to keep up to date with Intuition Robotics and ElliQ you can follow them on Facebook or Twitter! In an exciting update, ElliQ is now also available for purchase! So, if you or a loved one is interested in using the technology check it out!

“Robots should help humans do what they love. Help humans interact with more humans. Help humans in general, not pull humans away from humans.”-Danielle Tshak

Technology can be connective, but it’s up to us to use and design it in a way that brings us closer instead of pulling us apart.

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ElliQ is a great example of what’s possible when we design products with the end users. This kind of diversity in voices produces innovations that push us to new places.

The technologies of our future can feel unsettling, but we don’t have to be afraid. There will be great leaps like this one that solve some of the most vexing human problems.

By designing with connection and in mind and making innovations accessible to all, we can push ourselves in a positive direction.

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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Notes:

  1. Family Matters In-Home Care. “Loneliness in Seniors: Important Facts & Solutions.” Family Matters, 4 Jan. 2018, www.familymattershc.com/loneliness-in-seniors/. Accessed 15 Jan. 2019.
  2. “Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ, The Sidekick for Happier Aging, Now Available for Pre-Order.” Google Drive, Intuition Robotics, 7 Jan. 2019, drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1UliJTJ4C4nK3-1Z0tdFbTZRqza6wIGSK?ogsrc=32. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.
  3. “Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ, The Sidekick for Happier Aging, Now Available for Pre-Order.” Google Drive, Intuition Robotics, 7 Jan. 2019, drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1UliJTJ4C4nK3-1Z0tdFbTZRqza6wIGSK?ogsrc=32. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.
  4. “Building a Robot to Fight Loneliness.” YouTube, Bloomberg, 18 Oct. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGySFLW0qDs. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

COO of Ever Widening Circles, Founder of EWCed

Liesl is a camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV