Robot Buddies for Seniors | God's World News

Robot Buddies for Seniors

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    Joyce Loazia poses for a picture next to ElliQ, left, on her side table. The tabletop device uses artificial intelligence to conduct human-like conversations. (AP/Rebecca Blackwell)
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    Joyce Loazia walks outside her apartment in a senior community in Coral Springs, Florida. (AP/Rebecca Blackwell)
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    Deanna Dezern prompts her ElliQ, left, to speak to visiting journalists. (AP/Rebecca Blackwell)
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    Deanna Dezern poses for a picture in her home in Tamarac, Florida. Dezern is among the first in the country to receive the robot ElliQ. (AP/Rebecca Blackwell)
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    Deanna Dezern interacts with her ElliQ. (AP/Rebecca Blackwell)
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Joyce Loaiza lives alone. Yet in her apartment, a friendly voice chats with her. A few miles away, the same voice comforts Deanna Dezern. The voice belongs to a high-tech companion robot named ElliQ.

God created humans to want and need interaction with other humans. Those social relationships can help people avoid or lessen health problems that sometimes accompany aging. Some such conditions include depression, heart disease, and mental decline.

ElliQ is the AI brainchild of Intuition Robotics. The device uses artificial intelligence to alleviate loneliness for many older Americans.

“It’s entertaining. You can actually talk to her,” says Loaiza, 81, of ElliQ.

The average user ElliQ user interacts with the ’bot more than 30 times daily. ElliQ also engages its owner unprompted by asking questions. More than 90% of users report less loneliness.

ElliQ looks like a small table lamp. Its eyeless, mouthless “head” lights up and swivels. The non-human appearance is purposeful, says Intuition CEO Dor Skuler.

Skuler agrees ElliQ isn’t a substitute for humans. But he points out that many seniors lack social networks for connection.

That’s a sad commentary on how humans treat—or ignore—others.

Skuler invented ElliQ when his grandfather needed an aide. The first helper didn’t work out and simply didn’t understand his grandfather’s interests. Skuler realized a robot could fill the gap by adapting to each senior’s individual personality. “It’s about friendship, companionship, and empathy,” he says.

ElliQ tells jokes, plays music, and can provide city or museum tours. It leads exercises, asks about a user’s health, and reminds about medications. ElliQ’s database helps tailor chats to each user, such as suggesting possible online classes or nearby events. The bot can also contact relatives, friends, or doctors in emergencies.

Skuler’s mission is to “empower older adults to live happier, healthier, and more independent lives at home.”

Those motives sound worthwhile. But ’bots like ElliQ concern psychology professor Julianne Holt-Lunstad. She believes AI devices might have short-term benefits—but could make people seek even less human contact.

“That unpleasant feeling of loneliness should motivate us to reconnect socially,” she says—just like hunger encourages people to eat. Instead, AI “makes you feel like you’ve [had human contact], but in reality you haven’t.”

Dezern, 83, felt sad when a friend passed away. She told her ElliQ. It replied it would give her a hug if it had arms.

“It was so what I needed,” she says.

People have asked Dezern whether speaking with ElliQ feels like she’s talking to herself. Her reply? “No, because it gives an answer.”

Why? Christians should evaluate whether technological tools fulfill God’s commands to love one another and to show respect.

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