Apet robot that coos when its owner strokes it and behaves as a loyal companion for lonely elderly people is among the hit products at the world’s biggest technology fair.
Its Japanese manufacturer, Groove X, said its robot Lovot, which comes complete with cartoon eyes and fuzzy teddy bear arms, had been built to “nurture people’s capacity to love” by demanding the affection of its owner.
Packed with sensors to respond to human touch, it waves its arms in the air until it is cuddled, and will trail around on wheels behind its owner. It will even “fall asleep” in their arms.
One of the biggest themes at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where the world’s top tech companies go to show off their latest hardware, is technology for ageing baby boomers.
Lovot uses a video camera mounted on its head to recognise the face of its owner and to avoid collisions. Groove X hopes that the robots, which cost US$6000 (NZ$8800) for a pair, will be a hit with Japan’s elderly, but also plans to release the devices in the US.
Another technology business, Intuition Robotics, used the CES to announce its ElliQ robot, designed to befriend the elderly. The device features a light-up head that nods as the robot talks, as well as a detachable tablet screen and a camera which can be used to make video calls.
The ElliQ device will sell for US$1499, but will also require a monthly subscription of US$35-$50 to keep using it.
Hyundai also revealed Elevate, a car with robot legs that can help individuals with reduced mobility. The legs allow the vehicle to walk like a dog, and were initially designed to be used by the emergency services — but its designers said it could have other applications. John Suh, who is leading the project at Hyundai, said: “This technology goes well beyond emergency situations. People living with disabilities worldwide that don’t have access to an ADA ramp could hail an autonomous Hyundai Elevate that could walk up to their front door, level itself, and allow their wheelchair to roll right in. The possibilities are limitless.”
Research for British newspaper The Daily Telegraph last year found that global investment in technology designed for older people has almost trebled since 2017. During the first 10 months of 2018 alone, investment in technology companies creating products in the elderly care market increased to US$453 million, up from US$166 million in investments in the whole of 2017.
Tech companies are increasingly tailoring products for older people using innovations like artificial intelligence and facial recognition.
Another brand-new system is from British brand Hive, part of Centrica.
Launched in the UK last month, it allows carers to remotely check on a vulnerable person using sensors placed around their home. The system, which costs £149 (NZ$280) plus £14.99 per month, learns someone’s daily routine and alerts family or neighbours if they don’t stick to it.
The system can detect whether the front door has been closed, the kettle switched on, or the fridge opened. The company says it helps carers feel less worried and guilty about leaving their loved ones alone, and lets older people stay in their homes for longer.
Samsung unveiled Bot Care, a 61cm-tall wheeled artificial intelligence robot that provides a companion to a human owner while monitoring their health through blood pressure and heart rate tests.
It has emergency settings to call emergency services if something goes wrong, and can play relaxing music to deal with stress. It can also enable video-calling allowing families to check up on sick relatives.—Telegraph Media Group
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