Modern technology can offer so much – our devices have the ability to perform tasks that would have otherwise been too complicated or taken too much time, and can contribute to an overall better daily life. But stop to consider how you use the devices in your life. For every machine you purchase, you have to learn how to use it (which can often be a steep learning curve), and then, most of the time, you have to do the initial work to get the device working.
Moreover, it is up to us as the consumer to determine how this product should be integrated into our lives - this can be clear for a single-use device, but the more complicated technology becomes, and the more features are introduced, the more difficult it is to see all the ways in which modern technologies can fit my lifestyle, my personality and environment, and my circumstances.
The idea that I should learn how to use technology, that I need to figure out how to make it work for my life - this paradigm has become outdated. Advancements in technology and machine learning mean that our devices are not one-size-fits all, but rather, I can have a product experience truly madefor me.
What if instead of learning how to use technology, the technology itself could show you all the ways it can be used? What if your devices could understand your needs, and refine itself to fit your personality, your environment, and your circumstance - in a way that is perfectfor you?
Designing ElliQ's proactivity
With ElliQ, we were tasked to break this question down to its most nuanced details.Older adults should not have to learn how to incorporate complex technologies into their lives. In fact, no one should! We are constantly being told that humans need to command machines in order for them to work, and we knew this had to change if we wanted to adequately support an aging demographic. If we wanted ElliQ to truly work for the user, we needed to create a way for ElliQ to truly understand the user - their goals, their personality, their circumstance. More importantly, we needed ElliQ to proactively and accessibly teach each individual owner how she can be utilized for their specific needs and fit seamlessly into their lives.
The questions we most often receive are around how this is executed in actuality. How will it know what I need, if sometimes I don’t even know what I need? Will it constantly be bothering me trying to perform tasks, even if I don’t want it to? Is this an invasion of my privacy?
Breaking down the process
Let’s break this down. First, how ElliQ knows what activities to suggest. ElliQ has a complex decision-making process that incorporates a number of different factors, but the main factor is simply – what does a healthy, active, engaged life look like for you? ElliQ guides you in setting that.
ElliQ learns - through the various interactions and questions - about your interests and desires around wellness, staying socially and mentally active, your day-to-day schedule and routines - all the different ways that she can support your personal growth. What happens behind the scenes is even more incredible; ElliQ is constantly considering what is happening in the room, what interactions you’ve had with her, and how you like to be interacted with, in order to decide when and how is the right way to approach you with an activity.
Let’s say it is your goal to stay more connected with your friends and family. ElliQ is constantly thinking about the ways this could happen, and approaches you withsuggestions at just the right times. If it’s been a while since you’ve spoken to a family member, she may offer for you to make a video call, or send a sticker via text to let them know you are thinking of them. Based on how you respond to the request, and the effectiveness of the activity in achieving your goal, ElliQ will continue to refine her approach to ensure you are happy with the outcome. Or let’s say you want to stay more cognitively fit, which can often be a challenge as we age. ElliQ learns what your interests are (over time, and through your direct input) and begins to find the right content for you. If you like science, ElliQ can find interesting TED Talks to share or suggest to play trivia.
This leads into the next question, of how much is too much. Will I constantly be bombarded with requests from my ElliQ to engage? Simply put, you control how much (or little) you want to interact. ElliQ will learn your preferences – from the amount of times per day, to the time of day, even down to her approach. Some people like a direct request (maybe even with a little sass), while others prefer a friendlier conversational approach. ElliQ can learn what works for you – what is the most effective way to help you reach your goal – and make contextual decisions from there. Sensors that recognise factors in your environment also help determine these decisions; if you have friends over, or if you’re already busy, ElliQ will remain just a friendly device on your tabletop. Subtle and non-intrusive cues, such as a slight turn toward you as you enter the room, allows you to understand that she is present and ready for engagement, without any intrusion.
Privacy and security
Which leads to the last question, about privacy. We have employed some of the best in the business to ensure the information your ElliQ learns about you stays your own. While ElliQ is sensing your environment in order to make better decisions in her efforts to help you, this data will never be sold, can never be hacked, and exists for the sole purpose of making your life better. We are a mission-driven company, and we are only as good as our integrity.
It’s important to remember that for some people, modern technology simply does not work. And, as technology improves and becomes more complex, more and more people may find it difficult to use. Offering solutions that work for everyone – no matter your tech savvy or physical ability – is the only way we can keep technology inclusive. If our devices work for us, and not the other way around, it means that everyone can benefit, and hopefully, everyone’s lives can become a little more magical in the process.