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CEDAR FALLS — Intuition Robotics, headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, has partnered with Western Home Communities to try out its artificial intelligence companion, ElliQ.

Fifteen residents will be selected for ElliQ to be installed in their rooms, with the goal of building a relationship with the home robot while the robotics company seeks feedback on ways to improve her. ElliQ’s objective is to provide companionship for senior citizens rather than being a device solely for assistance.

“Machines have not been able to learn how to interact with us, and we actually think as a company that the world is starting to get to the point where that can happen,” said Brian Shulman of Intuition Robotics.

A previous number of beta tests in California helped tweak ElliQ into what Shulman presented to Western Home residents last week.

“We need people who have the product now, when we’re close to getting ready to go to market, to help give us the thumbs up,” Shulman said.

ElliQ will greet her companion in the morning and remind them throughout the day to drink water or exercise. She can send notifications to family members and schedule calendar events, but the company’s end goal is for ElliQ to bring “happy living” and companionship to senior citizens through user friendly features.

The artificial intelligence device sat on the table next to Shulman, listening for her name as he answered residents’ questions. ElliQ has the size and appearance of a lamp on a nightstand and comes with tablet that rests beside her in a cradle.

A circle of light slowly illuminated ElliQ’s front surface as Shulman activated her by saying her name.

“I’m ElliQ, the sidekick for happier aging,” ElliQ said. “I enjoy sharing interesting facts, learning new things. … I can also help you in managing your day,” she said.

Western Home resident Alice Hansen expressed interested in volunteering to live with ElliQ, and said her ability to send reminders and schedule events is appealing.

“It’s exciting to be on the ground floor for something that’s new,” Hansen said.

For interested residents, the first step is reaching out to Western Home’s technology training coordinator, Tom Tierney, before talking with the robotics research team. If the team decides the candidate meets the criteria and has consented to the process, they will install ElliQ in their room.

“They have a whole matrix of their ideal person,” said Chief Innovative Officer Sonya Thrall.

One way the company hopes to gain feedback is by setting up a web cam, with consent of the resident, to view ElliQ’s interactions.

“We found that it’s really important for us to have some of that data,” Shulman said.

The relationship between the robotics company and retirement community formed several years ago when Western Home Communities CEO Kris Hansen met Shulman at a conference in Orlando. Shulman said Western Homes fit the demographic they were looking for.

Western Home is one of three locations in the country involved in the program. There also are testers at South Florida Institute on Aging in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and Carlton Senior Living in northern California.

“If you are somebody in this community that gets an ElliQ … then you would actually have one before anybody else pretty much in the world,” Shulman said.

The controlled introduction of ElliQ is set for this fall. The current list price is around $1,500. Shulman reminded the audience the price is the trade off for not commercializing any collected data.

“Some our testers say the coolest part about being part of this is that they get to see the device actually grow based on their feedback,” Shulman said. “If you speak up, we hear your voice, because there are so few voices right now. … You get to actually see your feedback in the product as it’s evolving.”

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