Lonely? Get Yourself A Robot

Increasingly, Canadians are living alone. So how we combat loneliness? Get a robot:

Canada is facing an epidemic of loneliness—a crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated. As seniors and young adults found themselves cut off from vital sources of communication during lockdown, they reported elevated levels of isolation. One solution might come in the form of a social companion robot. I’m building it right now.

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I lead an AI team on a project run by the University of the Fraser Valley’s Community Health and Social Innovation Hub to reduce loneliness in adults. With a group of six researchers, we work on human-in-the-loop affective computing software, or emotional AI, that can recognize, process and simulate human feelings. We’ll deploy this software in prebuilt robots—right now, we’re working with one that’s roughly the size of a three-year-old child and another that looks like a cross between a bunny and a puppy. We’re focusing on engineering the privacy, security and safety in design, and we aim to get the first versions of our products on the market in the next two years.

To read the full story from Maclean’s, click here.



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