Intuition Robotics

We saw no shortage of Amazon Echo copycats at CES. ElliQ is another such device in the mold of Amazon's always-listening speaker, except ElliQ is specifically designed for the elderly.

From Intuition Robotics, a startup focused on technology for social companionship, the ElliQ was designed by Yves Behar's firm fuseproject, and it has the look of a slick, futuristic device. The main piece has what looks like two all-white lamps stacked on each other. The top one moves around and lights up to give ElliQ a personality. The secondary piece is essentially a tablet that ElliQ can control to show more information and start video calls.

Tailored for senior citizens

At first glance, nothing about ElliQ screams "Echo for the elderly" to me, but apparently, it's meant to have personality without looking like a robot and thus being off-putting for those uncomfortable with new tech.

Like the Echo, ElliQ can play music or podcasts. You can control it with your voice without having to read or touch anything. Beyond the Echo, ElliQ will tell you if you've received a message and help you interact with social media. In the debut video, when a young relative posts a picture message, ElliQ informs the convivial grandmother, and offers to show the picture on the screen. The grandmother then dictates a response to ElliQ.

I like the idea of vocal push notifications -- something the Echo doesn't have -- which would be especially useful to help a senior citizen with the tech. ElliQ can also offer reminders about appointments, and urge you to take your medicine or go out for a walk. Supposedly, ElliQ learns and adapts to behavior over time.

Showing off ElliQ

On display starting today at the Design Museum in London, Intuition Robotics will start trial runs with ElliQ in the bay area next month. Since it doesn't work with Amazon's Alexa, the Google Assistant or Apple's Siri, I'll need to see it to believe that it responds as seamlessly to voice commands as shown in the company's video.

As the first always-listening voice assistant that's proactive as well as reactive, ElliQ will also need to walk the line with those push notifications and avoid becoming annoying. I admire the active approach to using tech to engage with elderly relatives, but my grandma, for one, would toss it in the garbage the first time it overstepped its bounds and annoyed her. We don't have any pricing information on ElliQ yet, but hopefully the gamble of giving your older relative a high-tech companion will be a reasonable splurge.