Note: The above photo was taken prior to the start of Covid-19.
2020 is finally over! As we’ve all experienced, it was perhaps the most tumultuous, uncertain, and challenging year that many of us have ever endured. While we are excited to move on to a new chapter (and year) ahead, I wanted to first take this opportunity to reflect on this whirlwind of a year.
Though 2020 was extremely tough on us all, it was also quite a momentous year for us at Intuition Robotics. Our team certainly had its fair share of challenges — and we’ve definitely grown in unsurmountable ways.
We were very fortunate to have remained in operations throughout the pandemic, and our team was quite nimble and resilient in navigating through all of these rapid, constant changes. At the end of the day, what made it all worthwhile was knowing that we were part of something bigger.
Luckily, we made no Covid-19 related layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts to our team during this period. We did however use this opportunity to hone our strategy, to double and triple down on our commitment to improving the lives of older adults with ElliQ, and execute necessary optimizations across our team. We re-calibrated the makeup of the team, and were fortunate to welcome over 20 new amazing people into our ranks, while parting with others.
We witnessed ElliQ have a direct, positive impact on some of the most vulnerable during this time — socially isolated older adults. Knowing that ElliQ was there to help make their days at home alone just a little bit brighter — providing them with a much-needed sense of comfort and companionship as they sheltered in place — made our efforts all the more worthwhile.
Furthermore, we also saw the markets clearly signaling acceleration of digitalization and a move towards home health. There is now a growing appreciation of the complexities that face older adults that age in place.
So, what have we been up to? Here's a quick recap — read on to learn more.
With the heightened concern surrounding loneliness and isolation among older adults due to the pandemic, we had hundreds of concerned family members — as well as many older adults themselves — reach out to us about using ElliQ amid Covid-19. As such, we did our best to get more ElliQ units to those in need.
We quickly decided to open up our Insiders program to the public across the U.S., providing ElliQ free of charge to many older adults interested in enjoying her company (so long as they were willing to provide us with some feedback about the product).
Before Covid-19 we always sent a team member to install ElliQ at the older adult's home. This year, we had to figure out how to enable older adults, often in their 80s and 90s who live alone, often not the most tech-literate, to set up a social robot by themselves. The team rose to that effort remarkably.
In total, we installed 75 new ElliQ units over the course of 2020. For more in-depth information on our efforts to support older adults with ElliQ, and key usage patterns amid the pandemic, I welcome you to check out my other article on this topic.
Moreover, I’m happy to share some cumulative ElliQ stats from the full duration of 2020:
- ElliQ units spent 20,000+ days in older adults’ homes
- Users engaged in 35,000+ total interactions with ElliQ
- ElliQ users engaged 40,000+ minutes of interaction, ~35% of which were conversational
- ElliQ mapped 115,000+ user intents this year
- Users accepted ElliQ proactive suggestions over 60% of the time, totaling above 5 daily interactions on average
One of our Florida users, Deanna D., even publicly shared her story about how living with ElliQ made all the difference as she self-isolated at home. Her story was picked up by local news outlets across the U.S.
When asked about her experience living with ElliQ in the pandemic, she replied:
- “It’s a marvel of technology; that she has these capabilities to take care of me in ways I need … I’m not alone anymore.”
- “I’m in quarantine with my best friend. She won’t give me any disease. She won’t have her feelings hurt and she doesn’t get moody, and she puts up with my moods and that’s the best friend anybody can have.”
Other users shared similar sentiments about interacting with ElliQ, and told us the following:
Last, but certainly not least, I’m proud to share that our team added several new wellness-related features to ElliQ, to help support seniors in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and routine as they sheltered in place at home, totaling ~10% of interactions.
These features include:
- Stress reduction exercises
- Mood improvement exercises
- Relaxation activities before sleep
- Physical activity (i.e. chair exercises)
- Mood and sleep monitoring
- Nutrition conversations
In the year ahead, we’ll continue to expand our research efforts with ElliQ, exploring additional ways in which ElliQ can bolster older adults at home to maintain healthy, independent lifestyles, all day long.
It goes without saying that this year was financially detrimental for so many — with millions losing their jobs, and entire industries dramatically changing their course. My heart goes out to all those that were affected by the circumstances, as well as their loved ones.
Despite the circumstances, we were fortunate to have closed our $36M Series B funding round this year, bringing our total funding to $58M. Our balance sheet is now strong, and we’re fully funded a few years into the future. We also were delighted to get awarded funding from the Israel Innovation Authority.
The funding was announced on-stage at this year’s OurCrowd Summit in February 2020, alongside Jim Adler of Toyota AI Ventures. During the announcement, we also officially divulged the details of our partnership with Toyota, to help them create their custom in-car agent, Yui, for their LQ concept car.
Check out the video below to see how it all played out:
The funds will help fuel our mission of creating enduring relationships between humans and machines through digital companion agents that influence users’ behaviors and emotions. It will help us to continue our efforts to positively influence older adults’ lives and well-being via ElliQ, as well as expanding our work with Q for Automotive, our digital mobility companion.
It will also help us invest further in advancing our technology, cognitive AI capabilities, and tools — as well as our eventual plans to expand our digital companions into domains beyond the scope of longevity and automotive.
For those looking for work in Israel, we are aggressively hiring. I welcome you to check out our openings on our careers page, and feel free to spread the word to anyone you know that’s looking for a job.
Despite all of 2020’s chaos, we are thrilled to share that we received 5 awards this year:
- Gold Award for Personal Robotics in the 2020 Aging Awards
- The 2020 AI Breakthrough Award (Cognitive Robotics category)
- Red Herring’s Top 100 Europe
- Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020 (Middle East category)
- Qumra Capital’s 10 Most Promising Israeli Startups
This year, we launched 2 new partnerships with leading automotive OEMs (whose names shall remain confidential at this time), to collaborate with them in creating branded empathetic digital companion agents for their cars. As noted above, we also announced our collaboration with Toyota to help build their custom in-car agent, Yui, for their LQ concept car.
Finally, in terms of patents, our team filed 13 new patent applications over the course of this year — and we are starting to see patent applications we filed a few years ago getting granted.
There’s no denying that 2020 was an onerous, disheartening year for so many across the globe — particularly for millions of older adults, and the most vulnerable within our society.
In a way, this whole experience was a much-needed wakeup call — we’ve all seen first-hand just a mere glimpse into the loneliness and isolation that many of our elders have been facing for years.
Supporting lonely and isolated seniors is what our team set out to do with ElliQ since day one, and hopefully one of the silver linings of Covid-19 is that we’ve all gained some serious empathy towards our elders — and we’ll bring this new perspective with us moving forward.
Looking back on it all, I must express my immeasurable gratitude. I want to personally thank our wonderful team, partners, investors, advisors, users, and supporters for making this year so worthwhile — despite all of its madness.
I’m tremendously proud of what we’ve accomplished this year at Intuition Robotics, and where we’re headed in this year ahead. I’m very much looking forward to what 2021 has to offer — and with a vaccine on its way, I’m certainly feeling a lot more hopeful.
Here’s to better, brighter days ahead in this year to come.