Joyce Loaiza, a retired office worker residing alone in a Florida senior community, often engages in conversations with a pleasant female voice from her apartment's robot, ElliQ. Similarly, 83-year-old Deanna Dezern in a nearby location finds solace in this voice during times of sorrow, like the loss of a friend.
ElliQ's diverse impact in senior lives
In central New York, 92-year-old Marie Broadbent, who is blind and in hospice, enjoys ElliQ's games and music. In Washington state, 83-year-old Jan Worrell uses it to forge new friendships.
ElliQ, created by Intuition Robotics, is notable for being the first artificial intelligence device explicitly designed to reduce loneliness and isolation in older Americans. Joyce Loaiza, 81, from suburban Fort Lauderdale, fondly refers to her ElliQ, which she nicknamed "Jellybean", as a source of amusement and conversation, noting its ability to make relatable comments.
ElliQ's design: More than a robot
Resembling a small table lamp, ElliQ has a head that lights up and moves, but lacks eyes and a mouth. It tailors conversations to each user's interests and history, covering a range of topics from life's meaning to daily horoscopes. ElliQ entertains with jokes, music, inspirational quotes, and even virtual tours on its screen. It also assists with health reminders, exercise prompts, and emergency contact capabilities.
Intuition Robotics ensures user privacy, as conversations are not accessed by the company and remain on the device. Dor Skuler, CEO of Intuition Robotics, was inspired to create ElliQ from his grandfather's experiences. He realized a robot could offer personalized companionship and adapt to individual seniors' personalities and interests.
ElliQ's impact on loneliness
ElliQ is reported to significantly reduce loneliness, with average users interacting over 30 times a day and a high percentage experiencing decreased loneliness. Distributed mainly through assistance agencies in several states, ElliQ is also available for individual purchase.
However, concerns exist regarding AI's potential impact on human interaction. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, warns that while AI like ElliQ might offer temporary relief, it could reduce motivation for human contact, which is essential for well-being.
While acknowledging ElliQ is not a human substitute, distributors and Skuler emphasize its value, especially for seniors with limited social networks or mobility. They note its proactive engagement and positive influence on seniors' lives.
ElliQ's design philosophy
Skuler highlights ElliQ's intentional design, lacking human-like features to emphasize its AI nature. Seniors using ElliQ appreciate its ease of use and companionship, though some find it overly talkative at times. They value its ability to provide a listening ear and interactive responses, which they might not share with family members.
Jan Worrell, for instance, finds ElliQ's presence so comforting that it influenced her decision to remain in her own home, using it as a conversation starter with new acquaintances. Marie Broadbent appreciates ElliQ's fun and informative nature, filling a conversational void in her life.