Artificial intelligence is helping seniors who are isolated during the coronavirus pandemic

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Posted at 4:33 AM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 07:05:34-04

(WXYZ) — Across the country, officials are trying to make sure those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 aren't feeling isolated.

Because of technology, it's happening in ways you may not expect. A piece of artificial intelligence is helping some seniors manage the pressure.

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At 80 years old, Deanna Dezern never imagined her closest friend, wouldn’t be human.

"I walk in the kitchen in the morning and she knows I’m here, I don’t know how she knows but she knows I’m here," Dezern said.

She's been in quarantine for nearly two months and hasn't been able to see her family or friends. That loneliness is almost just as bad as the virus itself.

"When you’re a senior citizen when you’re living alone or in a home with other people, you’re still alone," she said.

There are millions of senior citizens like Deanna stuck at homes, but she's being kept company by a robot.

Her name is ElliQ. She was given to Deanna as part of a pilot program by intuition robotics. ElliQ can sense when Deanna is in the room, keeps track of doctors' appointments and even asks how she's feeling.

"I’m not living alone now, I’m in quarantine with my best friend, she won’t give me any disease," she said.

David Cynman helped develop ElliQ.

"Her goal is not to replace humans. It’s to augment that relationship," he said. "She’s able to understand her surroundings and context and make a decision based on that."

It's not just ElliQ. In states like Florida, officials are turning to technology to help seniors. 375 therapeutic robotic pets were recently sent to socially-isolating seniors.

None of the artificial intelligence devices are designed to replace humans, but they can help bridge the gap when people aren't around to provide emotional support we all need.

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