Israeli-made Robot Providing Elderly Assistance Is Launched

Five years in development, Intuition Robotics launches ElliQ - a robot intended to help senior citizens fight loneliness. It’s now on sale in southern Florida

Sagi Cohen
Sagi Cohen
Meet ElliQ. The robot is now on sale in southern Florida for $250 with a $30 monthly subscription fee
Meet ElliQ. The robot is now on sale in southern Florida for $250 with a $30 monthly subscription feeCredit: Intuiton Robotics
Sagi Cohen
Sagi Cohen

After years of development, testing, pivots and counter-pivots in its business strategy, Israel’s Intuition Robotics last week launched a home robot that acts a personal aide and companion for the elderly. Dubbed ElliQ, it can now be purchased in the United States through the company’s website (specifically for customers in South Florida).

ElliQ is a tablet connected to a lamp-shaped robot that can help older adults in simple daily tasks, but its main job is to alleviate loneliness. The robot not only knows how to answer questions but how to start a conversation. It can play music, recommend exercises and offer health advice. It can arrange a trip to a pharmacy or hospital for the user through Uber Health. The price is a one-time payment of $250 for the device and a monthly subscription fee of $30.

“After years of hard work, this day has finally come,” CEO Dor Skuler wrote on the company’s website. “Now, we are happy to make ElliQ widely available to any senior who desires a friendly sidekick who empowers them to maintain their independence and take control of their health.”

ElliQ is actually a tablet connected to a lamp-shaped robot, intended to help older adults in simple daily tasks, but also – and mainly – to help diminish lonelinessCredit: INTUITION ROBOTICS

Founded in 2016, Intuition Robotics has experienced many ups and downs. To date, it has raised about $60 million from, among others from Toyota AI Ventures, Samsung Next and OurCrowd. It spent over five years developing and beta testing its device with an older population. In 2019, the company announced the beginning of pre-sales, but in fact, only about 100 units were distributed to households as a pilot.

All the time that this was happening, Intuition Robotics and the other companies developing what are known as domestic robots found that the technological challenges they faced were more difficult than they expected. The products that were launched failed to find a market, and many companies, like Jibo and Kuri, closed their doors.

By the beginning of 2020, Intuition Robotics had decided to refocus its business plan to focus on licensing its artificial intelligence software to third parties, mainly in the automotive industry.

Management underwent a shakeup: Last year, two of its cofounders, Itai Mendelson and Roi Amir, left. The third, Skuler, stayed on as CEO, and Ronen Soffer, who had been in a senior position in a network development group at Intel, joined the company as product chief.

But just as Intuition Robotics was gearing up to make the changes, the coronavirus pandemic shuffled the deck. On the one hand, automakers were now spending less on research and development and, on the other, more and more elderly people were being left to themselves due to lockdowns and social distancing. They needed solutions.

Intuition Robotics resumed development of ElliQ and more recently has also begun a pilot project with assisted-living facilities. It now believes it has found the right fit between product and market. In addition, its pricing strategy has also been altered in favor of a one-time low price for the device and a monthly fee in a business model known as Robot as a Service (RaaS).

However, the company still has a long way to go. It will have to show that its device can be sold in substantial quantities and that it can keep paying subscribers over time. To do that, it will have to prove that ElliQ does provide added value, in comparison to more run-of-the-mill smart speakers or smart screens marketed by companies like Amazon and Google that offer similar features.

Moreover, the giants are using their generic products to hone in on the market for robotic assistance to older adults. Last December, Amazon launched Alexa Together, a subscription service for the older population that interfaces with the company’s smart home products and includes an option for communicating with family members and calling for emergency help. Interfacing with 4D radar devices made by the Israeli company Vayyar, Alexa Together can detect when an elderly person has fallen and needs assistance. Google has also entered the market as have a number of small startups.

On the one hand, this is all good news for Intuition Robotics, because it underscores the idea that there is indeed market for its product. On the other hand, it could also constitute significant competition down the road.

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