Robot companion for elderly on cusp of reality

A piece of machinery designed to engage, organise and provide companionship for elderly people is one phase closer to reality after the concept raised $8.38 million.

Intuition Robotics, the company behind the idea for elder care assistant ElliQ, announced on Tuesday it had raised the necessary funds through equity crowdfunding and iRobot, which produces popular self-vaccuuming robot Roomba.

ElliQ is an interactive device that allows elderly people to more easily make plans, be reminded to take medications, and connect with the outside world. It also suggests activities and video chats with friends and family.

The company's chief executive Dor Skuler says unlike voice command-responding assistants like Apple's Siri, ElliQ is "extremely emotive" and highly interactive - and can even proactively monitor a user's wellness.

"She has different gestures that can show happiness or signal confusion if she doesn't understand you," Mr Skuler told TechCrunch.

Jerusalem-based Intuition Robotics now has enough funds to open an office in San Francisco, where it will then begin testing  ElliQ with senior citizens.

Shivon Zilis, partner at venture capital firm Bloomberg Beta, says ElliQ may well cause "a revolution in computer-voice interfaces".

"[It's] a very respectful and approachable piece of technology for the person who's still trying to live a fulfilling life," she said.

"My best guess is we'll see the bleeding edge of [robots] helping people who are aging in place first."