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ElliQ at CES 2019 is a smart robot and display to keep Grandma company

After a couple of years in development and beta testing, the ElliQ robot designed to befriend the elderly is ready for preorder at a lofty price.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

ElliQ looks like a Pixar character. It has a lot of built-in intelligence, but it's specifically designed to not look too much like a robot. It's supposed to look friendly and show off its personality, with its rounded head bobbing as it talks. It's more or less a smart display that responds to voice commands and has a camera you can use to make video calls and see the other party on the included tablet.

Beyond the normal smart display features of the Amazon Echo Show ($230 at Amazon) and the Google Home Hub ($99 at Walmart), ElliQ has an air-quality sensor and a temperature sensor. You can also remove the touchscreen and use it as a tablet if you'd like. The device was designed by Yves Behar's firm fuseproject with audio from Harman Kardon. It uses computer vision based cameras to learn its environment. Its aim is to help your elderly relative live independently for longer and feel less lonely.

Startup Intuition Robots is showing ElliQ at CES for the third straight year. But this time, it's ready to go. After almost a year of beta testing in the bay area, ElliQ is now available for preorder and is expected to ship in the middle of the year.

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A robot companion

The goal of Intuition Robotics is to develop tech focused on social companionship. To that end, ElliQ responds to voice commands and offers proactive notifications and advice. It's designed for a senior citizen living alone, so relatives can monitor the conditions of the home using the company's app and check in if something's amiss.

In the meantime, ElliQ can suggest taking walks and offer reminders to take medication. It can be integrated with various messaging and social media platforms, so your grandma can send and receive texts and pictures without needing to fuss with a phone.

Lofty costs

All of these features sound great if ElliQ can properly balance responsiveness and notifications without becoming annoying. However, the price is much less appealing. ElliQ costs a lofty $1,499 (about £1,180 or AU$2,110) and then you're expected to pay a $35 to $50 monthly fee to continue using it. Preordering comes with twelve months of fee-free service, but that still seems like a high fee system especially given the upfront price.

The Amazon Echo Show and the Google Home Hub cost $230 and $150 respectively and don't have any associated monthly costs. ElliQ can certainly do more than both. it has a potentially useful camera complete with computer vision -- ElliQ is supposed to use it and its sensors to learn behavior and notify relatives if normal activity drops off.

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If all of the features of ElliQ work well together and this machine can truly help reduce the loneliness of a loved one while keeping them safe, the price could well be worth it. If it turns out to not be functionally any different than a smart display attached to a few sensors, you'll be much better off spending your money on other gadgets

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