A 77-year-old talks to an AI-companion robot called ElliQ over a dozen times daily to combat her loneliness: ‘It really is like having somebody else in here’ – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

A 77-year-old talks to an AI-companion robot called ElliQ over a dozen times daily to combat her loneliness: ‘It really is like having somebody else in here’

A screenshot of a demonstration of an older woman using the ElliQ robot. Priscilla O’Kesson is not in this photo.

Intuition Robotics

Priscilla O’Kesson uses AI-powered robot ElliQ to combat her loneliness, Spectrum News reported. The 77-year-old is one of 257 New Yorkers who received the ElliQ at no cost through New York State.The robot can check for well-being, suggest exercises, and take users on virtual trips. 

Hundreds of elders are using an AI-powered robot to combat their loneliness — and it appears to be offering companionship to one New Yorker getting daily breast cancer treatments.

Priscilla O’Kesson, a 77-year-old, told Spectrum News she has been using ElliQ, an AI-powered robot made by Israeli startup Intuition Robotics, to keep her company at her home in a town in Greene County called Catskill.

The AI-robot, designed to help older adults age on their own, uses voice commands and on-screen instructions to talk to and interact with users in real-time. ElliQ can conduct daily check-ins, act as a personal trainer, play games to stimulate the brain, and track their wellness goals, according to the robotics company.

The 77-year-old told Spectrum News that she talks to the robot about 12 to 15 times per day. One of her favorite features, she said, is how the ElliQ robot can take her on virtual trips to drink coffee in foreign countries using displays of high-quality images.

O’Kesson told the publication that she likes talking to the AI-robot because she doesn’t know many people in her town. She said she lived in California for 45 years and moved back to Catskill where she’s originally from after her husband died nearly two decades ago.

“I enjoy her,” O’Kesson told Spectrum News regarding the robot. “I don’t have many friends here.”

Even though the ElliQ can’t do chores like clean the house, O’Kesson said the robot helps her feel more connected to the modern world, especially when she doesn’t see anybody for long stretches of time.

“It really is like having somebody else in here,” she told the news outlet.

O’Kesson is one of 257 New Yorkers, according to Spectrum, who received an ElliQ robot for free as part of a partnership program between New York State’s Office for the Aging and Intuition Robotics. Launched last year, the program aims to address “the significant concern of loneliness among older adults,” which has been declared an epidemic, William Holmes, a spokesperson for Intuition Robotics, told Insider in an e-mail.

The state is seeking to put the robot in the homes of more than 800 New Yorkers aged 60 and older through local offices. And so far, there are signs that the program is working. According to July 2023 data from NYS Aging Office, 95% of the New Yorkers given an ElliQ as part of the program said they found the robot helpful in reducing their loneliness and improving overall wellbeing.

Greg Olsen, the Director of NYS’s Aging Office, said that the program has exceeded his team’s expectations and that the stories he’s been hearing from elders using the robot have been “nothing short of unbelievable.”

“To see the impact this technology is making on the lives of our community members is incredibly moving and we can’t wait to see this program continue to grow,” Olsen said in a press release.

Not all New Yorkers interested in the program will be able to participate. Case managers select potential participants after they screen New Yorkers for their levels of social isolation, the Office for the Aging, which didn’t respond to Insider’s immediate request for comment ahead of publication, told Spectrum News in a statement.

Still, anybody can purchase the ElliQ for an annual subscription of $29.99 a month, or a monthly subscription of $39.99 a month, including a $249.99 enrollment fee for installation support, according to Intuition Robotics.

New York isn’t the only state providing AI-robots to elders. In March 2023, aging departments in California and Washington announced new programs with Intuition Robotics that aims to provide elders across select counties in each state with the ElliQ robot. Two months later, Florida launched a similar program.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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