Robot companion for elderly in 2019 all set

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

Artificial intelligence (AI) has come to Singapore. But how does the tiny smart nation reap the benefits?

Chinese tech giant Alibaba admitted that Singapore gains from AI by recognizing its advantages and setting the foundation in advance.

In a statement made by Dr. Rong Jin, head of Machine Intelligence Technologies at Alibaba’s Damo Academy, this is the reason why the company opted to establish its first joint research laboratory outside China with Nanyang Technological University (NTU). This multimillion-dollar investment was first made public in February last year.

“We are already witnessing the fruits of this collaboration via an artificial companion for the elderly currently under development, to tackle the urgent issues from (Singapore’s) aging society,” the executive said.

One example of is Lookout, an app to help those blind or visually handicapped learn about the environment around them. “With AI technology, we’re bridging the virtual world with the physical world making the day to day tasks and interactions a little easier,” Ms. Irina Kofman, Chief Operating Officer of Google said.

Virtual Companions

The lack of expert caregivers who can assist aged patients living alone and who need everyday support, has given rise to the need for robotic helpers. Examples are Catalia Health’s Mabu, Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ, CT Asia Robotics’ Dinsow and Reiken’s Robobear are virtual home assistants for the elderly who also provide companionship. Mabu is a chatty robot that can provide customized discussions to a patient and can find hard-to-get data about treatment. ElliQ, on the other hand, is design to keep aging adults active and continuously engaged by connecting them to their families and the outside world.

Then there are the AI chatbots that can aid patients and the elderly stay on top of healthcare plans. These AI applications remind seniors to take medication and when to take these, about doctors’ appointments, and even when to eat. Above and beyond this, AI-powered robots provide companionship to depressed seniors.

With the advent of 2019, tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Alibaba and HP Enterprise (HPE) predict that Singaporeans can expect to see more of artificial intelligence in their lives not just as a digital assistants for their mobile devices but also as companions in their golden years.