Amazon has rolled out a slew of new features for its Alexa personal assistant that will help U.S. users check in on an aging family member from afar.
Called the Care Hub, the features allow users to program a set of activity alerts that are delivered from an in-home Alexa-enabled device to the caregiver's Alexa app. These can include a heads up when a senior first uses their Alexa device each day, or a warning if no activity is detected by a certain time. Family members can also request a more in-depth log of their elder's activities – although Amazon notes that put some privacy-minded measures in place for these reports.
"For example, when checking the activity feed, the family member would be able to see their loved one was using Alexa for entertainment, but not the song or podcast they were listening to, or what they said to Alexa," the company wrote in its announcement.
Should the family member see cause for concern, they can quickly initiate a phone call or two-way chat through the app. Similarly, the linked account can be designated as an emergency contact, allowing the senior to trigger a call or other alert to the family member with the phrase, "Alexa, call for help."
WHAT'S THE IMPACT?
As digital monitoring tools increase aging seniors' ability to live independently in their own homes, technologies like Amazon Alexa have been highlighted by experts as a key resource due to their intuitive voice-based interface. Amazon's move to build dedicated first-party support for monitoring and emergency alerts could increase adoption among families, and further cements the AI assistant's place in seniors' homes.
THE LARGER TREND
From robotic pets to innovative fall-detection and emergency-communication tools, a wealth of new technologies is seeking to help seniors who are living alone stay healthy and safe. But even within the AI personal assistant space alone, new products are being developed with seniors in mind. These include Intuition Robotics' ElliQ, Catalia Health's Mabu, and even mobile robot companions like Cutii,
As for Amazon, the company was first rumored to be building a "health & wellness" team within its Alexa division back in the spring of 2018. At that time, the potential focus areas included diabetes management and maternal health, alongside aging care.
More recently, the company released its first wearable health tracker and a companion app. Called the Amazon Halo, the screenless device tracks activity, sleep, temperature, heart rate, activity and even voice.