temi is the First Personal Robot Companion for Elderly Aging in Place
temi is the first personal robot companion to help the elderly age in place. So, while it is not strictly a social robot (but includes Alexa), it does offer a number of eldercare benefits for older adults in their own homes and those that care for them.
The main reasons I feel that this personal robot companion for the elderly aging in place is worthy of serious consideration are:
- superior telepresence functionality to address loneliness and isolation
- a custom voice assistant, and the most popular one available (with significant improvements on the horizon)
- the company’s experience, partnership/distribution strategy, and focus on multiple markets are the primary reason it stands a good chance of success
In support of the assertions above, I’ll describe 8 temi features for eldercare and 5 additional important features. After that, I point out 6 things to consider about acquiring a temi personal robot.
But before we get to that, the short one and a half minute promotional video below shows what a more robust temi for eldercare can look like.
However, when something similar to what is portrayed in the video becomes available in the U.S., I would seriously consider buying it.
What about you? Let me know in the comments below.
The product shown will initially be available in Germany. It is described in this press release for the “medisana temi”.
8 temi Features for Eldercare
Here are eight of temi’s features that are particularly suited to many elders living a private residence:
- Follow mode
- Companion App
- Conversational interface
- Smart Home Hub
- Security and Safety
- Selfies, Pictures, and Videos
temi is a telepresence robot that is very suitable for eldercare to combat loneliness and isolation.
TED 2019: Physicist David Deutsch Delivers His Talk via Temi the Robot is the title of the article, but Deutsch is actually controlling the other robot and the interviewer is using temi.
Telepresence is the key feature that allows families that are remotely located to easily “visit” together. Because, even if not very far away, telepresence eliminates barriers to getting together, such as travel time and cost.
Most telepresence robots are controlled by the remote user.
But with temi, when having a video call with friends or family, a senior can enable Follow Mode and move around their home for a much more natural conversation. Thus superior telepresence.
Also, temi adjusts its screen up or down and turns, to follow the elder’s face. No one has to “drive” and the interaction is again more natural.
A senior with a walker could use follow mode to get something out of the refrigerator, put it on the tray, then take it from the tray and put it on a table.
As shown in the photo, temi’s tray can be used to wirelessly charge a compatible smartphone.
However, the tray was created to assist people, typically elderly, with mobility or shaking (tremors) issues.
It can help them stand up when seated, as seen in the video at the beginning of this article.
The companion app is a very important feature. Because, eldercare is, of course, focused on the elder(s), but usually, and importantly, includes others concerned with the well-being of the elder(s).
The elder(s) can use the app when away from the home to check on things, such as if they left a window open, or what the family pet is up to.
Others, being family and friends, or perhaps a caregiver, can use the app to initiate a video call or check on activity. They can also “drive” the robot.
If for some reason there is a concern, a caregiver can initiate a video call and if the elder is not seen nor heard, she can move the robot around the home and see what the robot sees. So, just imagine if the elder had fallen and was unconscious!
temi offers a choice of its own voice assistant or Amazon’s very popular Alexa. Some reviewers have called temi an Echo Show on wheels.
The option of Alexa is a major benefit as there is a substantial and growing collection of “skills” (apps for Alexa) designed for seniors. In Amazon’s website or app, select the department “Alexa Skills” and enter seniors or elderly. Note that several apps are intended for clients of healthcare providers or other businesses.
Amazon introduced “new tools for device makers to create their own screen-based products with Alexa”, named Alexa Smart Screen and TV Device SDK. As a result, I expect temi will be able to more fully integrate with Alexa.
Smart Home Hub
Smart Home technology can improve the quality of life for older adults that are aging in place. And, opting for the Alexa voice assistant allows seniors to control lights, thermostats, and many other things, from the comfort of their chair or bed.
With this technology in the home, everyday actions can be automated so forgetting is less of an issue. Above all, Smart Home technology can contribute to security and safety, take care of some chores like vacuuming, and more.
Security and Safety
The telepresence, companion app, and Smart Home Hub features provide a foundation to monitor security and ensure that the home’s residents are safe.
temi includes a “patrol mode”. In addition, the Smart Home Hub capability supports all sorts of security-related smart products such as locks, doorbells, cameras, and sensor-based security systems.
Alexa, by itself, has a “Guard” feature which can detect glass breaking or the sounds of smoke or CO2 detector alarms. In the same vein, it can also turn smart lights on and off to simulate presence.
As noted above if there is concern about the senior’s well-being, the robot can be used to try and contact or locate the senior. As seen at the beginning of the short video above, it is possible that the robot can automatically detect a fall and summon help if necessary.
While the video is of a customized version of the robot, I expect that there will be other implementations of this automatic fall detection capability. The video also shows the robot being an aid for rising from being seated.
Selfies, Pictures, and Videos
The robot’s screen is very high definition to view videos and other content, and there is a feature that allows the elder to command the robot to take photos and videos. They can be shared with family and friends. Taking and sharing with voice only!
5 Additional Important Features
Above all, all of temi’s features may be important to any user, including older adults. Here are five to know about:
Media refers to pictures, noted above, video, and audio. Further, when combined with Alexa, seniors can continue to enjoy listening to music, movies, and books. Alexa can read books to those with vision issues.
Reviews generally praise the audio quality from the Harman Kardon speakers. So, listening to music and watching movies is a pleasant experience. For those interested in the specifications:
- 20W Audio
- High fidelity equalizer
- One sub-woofer
- Two midrange speakers
- Two tweeters
- Passive radiators
- Acoustically transparent fabric
There are three. They are crucial for the navigation system and high-quality video calls. Here are the specifics:
13 MP HIGH RESOLUTION CAMERA
- FOV 60 Degrees
- 5-Element lens
- Hybrid IR filter
- 13MP wide camera for remote navigation
- FOV 95 Degrees, 1080p@30FPS
TOF DEPTH CAMERA
- 30 FPS
- Up to 5 meters
- 90° FOV
The high definition display was reported, in September 2018, as having a “QHD (2560 x1600) IPS LCD touchscreen”. Maybe a future upgrade option? The current specifications are:
- 10.1″ HD LCD SCREEN
- Capacitive multi-touch for intuitive interface.
- (1920X1200) IPS LCD 16M colors Touch Capacity
- Display Pixel density: 224 (ppi)
- 340 cd/m2 max brightness (typical)
- Fingerprint-resistant coating
The display tilts with autonomous face tracking. It has a motion range of -15°~+55°.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery is long-lasting with up to 8 hours and 3 hours to fully charge. The robot will autonomously return to the docking station which charges at 220V/110V.
The team that developed temi worked for a company that makes “high performance tactical ground robots to reliably support our troops.” Navigation is critical to that mission and that of temi. It is a key competence of temi.
Including the cameras, there are a total of 16 sensors used along with custom AI software forming the patented ROBOX™ Navigation System which includes human-robot interaction in addition to autonomous navigation.
The sensors, other than the cameras, are:
- 360 degrees LIDAR
- 5 proximity sensors
- IMU sensor
- 6 Time of Flight linear sensors
An SDK is a Software Development Kit. Many robots that are under development plan to, or do, offer an SDK along with an “app store”. The app store for temi is not yet available.
However, with half a million Facebook followers, I expect there are a fair number of developers working on apps that will specifically benefit older adults. The video at the end of this article is another example of the benefit of an SDK.
Some specifications are included above. See all of them on the temi website.
6 Things to Consider Before Acquiring a temi Personal Robot Companion for the Elderly
It is early days for this robot and all personal home robots in general. One reviewer commented:
If I have a complaint about Temi, it’s only that I believe it will take some time for its full potential to be realized.Mark N. Vena writing in Forbes
I agree that it will take some time. But to the degree that I believe the existing set of features provides good value, I would not complain. And, the quote predates the inclusion of Alexa which significantly expands its utility.
Here are six considerations:
- Taking care of temi (administration)
- The “killer app”
- Additional eldercare features
- The cost
- Threats to success
Taking care of temi (administration)
Pretty much all technology products use some kind of computer. This robot has two. One is used for the navigation system and the other handles user interaction.
While users don’t need to know anything about the underlying components, there is a greater level of “tech-savvy” required to handle a number of tasks to get started and keep things running smoothly.
The person that performs the initial setup steps becomes the administrator or owner. Setup includes a number of settings, and there may be a need to change some later on.
Assuming that the owner is a caregiver, friend, or family member, familiarizing the older adult(s) with temi’s capabilities, including the use of the touchscreen, will be an initial task. The owner should also expect to provide this kind of assistance from time to time.
One setting is whether updates to temi’s software will be done automatically or manually. If the setting is automatic when an update is available the screen will display a message and someone will need to touch the screen to proceed.
An update can add new capabilities or possibly change some of the interactions. The owner should be prepared to inform the older adult(s) about any changes.
Problems of various kinds will happen. Some, such as a possible need to reset the location map, are included in the manual. Others may need the owner to interact with temi’s support organization.
There may be good news. Reports are on the support organization are positive and that they are very responsive.
Support is available via email, chat, and telephone, but the company is not focussed on eldercare, so be aware.
The “killer app”
After the Lotus spreadsheet program became available, sales of personal computers took off. It became known as the “killer app” – software that justified the purchase of a particular hardware product.
The iPhone was not an immediate hit. There were quite a few other pocket phones at the time. It was the introduction, a year later, of the App Store that differentiated the iPhone and it took off.
Robots for the home had a rocky 2018 with several prominent products, which had not been on the market very long, shutting down. Jibo, on the cover of Time magazine’s 25 Best Inventions issue in 2017, was the poster child for this reality.
Telepresence at a lower price and addressing business, retail, healthcare, and other markets, in addition to home use for families and eldercare, may well be the killer app for mobile robots that address the home market.
Or, maybe telepresence becomes a feature of personal robot companions for elderly care monitoring (the killer app) as depicted in the “medisana temi” video above.
Additional eldercare features
I would like to see the added features of “medisana temi” become standard, or additional care monitoring offerings appear. Some features that come to mind are:
- Fall detection
- Learning (AI) about ADLs (activities of daily living), such as normal time to get out of bed, with notification of threshold violation
- Additional sensors to monitor the home’s environment
- Integration with out-of-home (mobile) activities
Justifying the cost versus benefit depends upon each situation.
A reason there is so much activity to develop robots for eldercare is the caregiver gap – the difference in the increasing older population versus smaller growth in people of caregiving age.
Caregiving frequently falls upon a younger family member and can become a significant burden. How much is it worth for robotic assistance with some aspects of caregiving?
The company has made it easier to acquiring temi by offering payment plans coupled with a generous 30-day return policy (near the bottom of the warranty).
Threats to success
I wonder about the company’s business plan. There are many positives that point to potential success. But, if sales projections do not meet goals what might happen?
Unlike the failed consumer robots of 2018, this one targets, and is designed for multiple markets: certain business types, distribution channels plus partnerships, and geographic.
Of course, there is always competition. There are strong rumors of Amazon entering the fray. Japan, China, and Korea all have major robot initiatives, experience, and corporate giants with projects in the works. While a threat, this can just as well be a boon.
While I would like to have a temi personal robot as a companion, not considering myself elderly (although I’m 72) I don’t believe I need one, at least not yet.
I’m hopeful that the “medisana temi”, or more likely something like it, will be available for me to use when the time comes that I need it.
But it does certainly look like a lot of fun. Here’s an effervescent young woman showing off her new temi robot in a nine-minute video. Enjoy!