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AI plays games and reads books to pensioners to help tackle loneliness

A robot companion could soon help prevent the elderly from feeling lonely.

Elli.Q uses artificial intelligence to slowly learn what its owner likes, and will help those less confident with technology to use social media, video chats and play games online.

The robot, which its inventors claim is one of most advanced social companion robots in the world, has now been launched during an exhibition at at The Design Museum in London. 

According to Age UK, nearly half of all people 75 and over live alone and more than 1 million always or often feel lonely.

Thirty-six percent speak to less than one person a day and 11 per cent say they spent five days or more a month without seeing anyone.

Designed by Israel-based Intuition Robotics, Elli.Q is expected to help combat this loneliness.

The robot will suggest activities to its owner - like reading, going for a walk, playing games or phoning friends and family.

'Loneliness and social isolation are the result of longevity, and technology has made the problem worse by requiring older adults to learn new technical skills in order to accomplish the simplest of tasks,' says Dor Skuler, CEO and Founder of Intuition Robotics.

'Our goal is to leverage a combination of our proprietary technology, emotive interaction models and gerontology insights with elegant design to empower older adults to intuitively interact with technology and easily connect with content and loved ones, and pursue an active lifestyle.

'We like to think of her as part communication coordinator, part facilitator of lifelong learning and part coach.

'She's easy to talk to, intuitive to operate and understands her owner.' 

Using 'body language' that conveys emotion, speech interface, sounds, lights and images to express itself, Elli.Q is designed to be easily understood.

Using AI, it learns the preferences, behaviour and personality of its owner.

It proactively recommends activities based on its learning and based on recommendations by family.

Elli.Q also has the ability to monitor wellness and the environment in the home.

Intuition Robotics start a trial phase of Elli.Q in the homes of older adults in the San Francisco Bay Area next month.

'The idea of having a robot companion is quite dystopian, especially for older generations,' says Yves Béhar, CEO and Chief Designer at Fuseproject, who collaborated on the project.

'Through years of research, we were able to develop a design language and user experience that feels natural, with subtle expressions to develop a unique bond between Elli.Q and its owner. 

'Elli.Q could never replace human interaction, but it can be an important motivating factor in keeping older adults healthy and active when living alone.'

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