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The AI dolls to tackle loneliness of South Korea’s elderly (and watch them)

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A company based in Korea has introduced an AI companion doll aimed at addressing the growing issue of loneliness among seniors.

Unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in late February, Hyodol launched a robot doll priced at $1800, intended to provide emotional support to the elderly throughout their daily lives.

Sporting a somewhat eerie appearance, the doll houses a mobile communication module, processor, various sensors, and speakers. It is powered by advanced language model-based artificial intelligence, enabling it to engage in meaningful conversations.

The doll can also remind users to take their medication, and it features safety mechanisms that issue alerts when no movement is detected for a certain period, essentially always monitoring its surroundings.

Discussing the innovation with Aju Korea Daily before the congress on February 20, Hyodol CEO Kim Ji-hee remarked, “The recognition of AI-based care robots on a global scale within the home market, specifically in South Korea, is highly significant.”

“Starting with our participation in MWC, we plan to officially introduce Hyodol robots in the European and North American markets in the latter half of 2024,”

South Korea is grappling with an increasingly elderly population

The Hyodol robot has garnered support from local governments in South Korea due to its potential to aid the elderly population. Approximately 7,000 dolls have been distributed to seniors living alone, and they are also being utilized with dementia patients at a university hospital in Gangwon province.

While using a doll to combat loneliness may raise eyebrows, South Korea is facing serious demographic challenges.

The nation has a rapidly aging populace, alongside the world’s lowest birth rate and rising life expectancy. This demographic transition is creating considerable strain on South Korea’s care sector, its diminishing workforce, as well as its pension and healthcare systems.

The AI robot doll company has been conducting thorough research and collecting data from numerous studies to gauge the impact on those who are in dire need of companionship.

Through a study involving over 9,000 users, Hyodol observed a notable reduction in depression levels from 5.73 to 3.14. Additionally, there was an improvement in medicine intake, rising from 2.69 to 2.87.

Aside from motion sensing, the doll offers various other features such as tactile interaction, 24-hour voice reminders, health check-ins, voice messages, a health coach, quizzes, exercise routines, music, and more.

For caregivers, the application provides insights allowing them to send and receive voice messages, issue group announcements, and monitor continuous motion detection.

Featured image: Hyodol website

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