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Robot Pets to help the elderly avoid loneliness a hit at CES in Las Vegas

Alia Talaat

A pet robot which coos when its owner strokes it and is designed as a loyal companion for lonely elderly people is among the hit products at CES, the world’s biggest technology fair in Las Vegas.

Japanese manufacturer Groove X says its robot Lovot, which comes complete with cartoon eyes and fuzzy teddy bear arms, has been built to “nurture people’s capacity to love” by demanding the affection of its owner. Packed with sensors to respond to human touch, when Lovot wants to be cuddled, it waves its arms in the air, and will trail around adoringly behind its owner on wheels. It will even ‘fall asleep’ in their arms if offered a cuddle.
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is where the world’s largest technology companies go to show off their latest hardware. This year, one of the biggest themes at the conference is technology to help 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 $6000 (£4700) for a pair, can become companions for Japan’s aging population, but is also planning to release the devices in the US in the future.

Another technology business, Intuition Robotics, used CES to announce its ElliQ robot, which is designed to befriend the elderly. The device features a light-up head which 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 $1,499, but will require a monthly subscription between $35 to $50 to keep using its service.

The Lovot robots for the elderly
The Lovot robots for the elderly CREDIT: AFP
Hyundai also revealed a car with robot legs that can help individuals with reduced mobility, such as the elderly. The car legs that allow the “Elevate“ vehicle to walk like a dog 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 The Daily Telegraph last year found that global investment in technology designed for older people has almost trebled since 2017.

During the first ten months of 2018 alone, investment in technology companies creating products in the elderly care market increased to $453m, up from $166m in investments in the whole of 2017.

The Samsung Bot Care
The Samsung Bot Care CREDIT: BLOOMBERG
CES is best known for the cutting edge updates to hardware like televisions and laptops shown at the event.

But as populations age, technology companies are increasingly tailoring their products for a new demographic, often 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 plus £14.99 per month, learns someone’s daily routine and alerts family or neighbours that something may be wrong if they don’t stick to it.

The system can detect whether the front door has been closed, the kettle switched on, and the kitchen cupboards or 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.

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is where the world’s largest technology companies go to show off their latest hardware. This year, one of the biggest themes at the conference is technology to help ageing baby boomers.