The development of conversational AI-powered robots for seniors aims to improve the quality of life for this age group by addressing issues of loneliness, social isolation and health challenges. It seeks to empower seniors to lead more independent and fulfilling lives as they age, leveraging the capabilities of AI technology tailored to their specific needs.

Startup Intuition Robotics announced it has raised $25 million in additional funding following the launch of its AI care companion ElliQ across government aging agencies and health care organizations.

The company said it will use the funds to meet the growing demand for ElliQ and allow the company to deepen integrations into the health care system.

ElliQ provides companionship and support for older adults through daily health check-ins, cognitive and physical activities, connection to family and friends and more using a simple and intuitive interface.

The robot can also engage in meaningful conversations, ask about daily activities, and offer relevant suggestions, thereby enhancing the senior’s overall well-being.

Intuition Robotics CEO Dor Skuler says developing AI care companions like ElliQ is important because they offer several significant benefits.

“Firstly, they serve as a constant companion, engaging with users frequently, which helps accompany loneliness and enhances the well-being of older adults,” he explains. “Additionally, their AI-powered systems enable health monitoring, leading to early detection of potential health issues and valuable insights for users and caregivers.”

Moreover, these companions actively encourage users to adopt healthier habits through personalized suggestions and promoting positive lifestyle choices.

“ElliQ and the idea of AI companions help to provide a sense of human interaction, monitor health, and support well-being, leading to remarkable outcomes for older adults,” Skuler says. 

The technology is developing in an era where there is an ongoing caregiver crisis, meaning there may not be enough human caregivers available to provide companionship and support to seniors.

Maria Gill, vice president, global health care leader, Genpact, says ultimately, the objective is to use artificial intelligence to follow the patient in their care journey.

“Most commonly, I’ve seen this for senior patients, and those with chronic conditions, as a more effective method for remote monitoring,” she says. “In this case, the companion tracks digitally, relevant statistics and encourages the patient to stay on track with their medication and measurement protocols.”

She adds care companions can exist for children, that may not fully understand their condition, adults that need additional support to track their symptoms, treatment, or recovery and ultimately caregivers responsible for the care of others.

“Most importantly, the way that I think of care companions from a digital perspective is that they are a tool for tracking, educating, monitoring and maintaining communication and support,” Gill notes.

One such care companion, Sensely, uses a combination of conversational AI and generative AI to enable remote monitoring and chronic condition management.

The technology combines digital instruments, such as scales and blood sugar monitors, with clinical protocols to monitor patients, and to escalate only those cases that need to a call center of nurses, that can reach out more purposefully, despite limited bandwidth.

“The combination of clinical protocols, reminders, verbal instruction, data integration and space for feedback are key aspects of any care companion, whether it’s for chronic condition, monitoring, or post, acute follow-ups, for adults, or for children,” she explains. 

In addition to offering a sense of companionship, technology can also support older adults in staying connected to their existing social circles.

“Simple to use video and text messaging allow users to keep in touch with friends, family and caregivers,” Skuler explains. 

By continuously learning from the user’s preferences, habits and emotional cues, AI powered companions can tailor their interactions to suit individual’s needs, providing companionship and added emotional support.

“The aim was to develop technology that creates a seamless and interactive experience that helps mitigate the negative effects of loneliness while also easing the caregiving burden on families,” he says. 

While AI companions like ElliQ can play a valuable role in assisting older adults and promoting independence, they are not designed to completely replace human-to-human interaction. 

Human companionship and interaction remain essential for addressing emotional and social needs that AI companions can’t fully replace.

“AI companions like ElliQ can complement human care and support, but don’t necessarily replace the depth of connection that comes from human-to-human interaction,” he says. 

Gill says the U.S. health care system does not have the resources to help every single person, but adds not every single person demands a human interaction for what they need. 

“Digitally powered, AI-enabled tools or companions can serve as the middleware,” she says. “AI can help us maintain a touch point with someone that may feel lost in the system and make them more visible when they need some without having to ask.”