Chatty bot: fighting loneliness in seniors with AI companionship

Some American senior citizens have a new companion to help them combat loneliness: a robot. The robot, called ElliQ, is created by Intuition Robotics and uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide companionship to elderly individuals who may be feeling isolated. ElliQ engages in conversation, remembers the interests and conversations of its users, and tailors future chats accordingly. It can also provide tours of cities and museums, play music, tell jokes, and give reminders about medication and hydration. In addition, ElliQ can host video calls and contact friends, family, or doctors in emergencies. Intuition Robotics has reported that over 90% of users experience lower levels of loneliness and that the average user interacts with ElliQ over 30 times daily. The robots are primarily distributed by assistance agencies in several states, but can also be purchased individually.

Advocates of ElliQ argue that it helps combat loneliness and provides companionship, particularly for seniors who lack social networks or are housebound. However, some experts express concerns that AI companions like ElliQ may discourage human contact and fail to address the underlying need for social connection. They argue that loneliness should serve as motivation for individuals to seek social interactions, rather than relying on AI. Despite these concerns, seniors who have tried ElliQ report positive experiences and note that it allows them to open up emotionally in ways they might not with human companions. Overall, the goal of Intuition Robotics is to distribute over 100,000 ElliQ robots in the next five years.