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South Jeolla to expand provision of AI companion robots for its elderly population

Jan. 15, 2023 - 17:08 By Song Jung-hyun

This photo shows a man using a Hyodol smart notebook (Yonhap)

South Jeolla Province announced Sunday that it would expand the distribution of the AI companion robot Hyodol for seniors living alone in the region.

South Jeolla Province Public Agency for Social Service plans to deliver Hyodol to 1,360 of those aged 65 and older -- a high risk group for solitary death and suicide -- up from 260 last year.

Hyodol, launched by the start-up of the same name in 2018, is an AI robot designed to help manage the emotions, life and safety of the seniors.

A total of three types will be supplied by the agency: an AI stuffed doll in the form of either a boy or a girl, a Hyodol smart notebook and a model that converges the two.

The first type, an AI doll, is equipped with talking features, which allow it to regularly talk to seniors during the day. It also comes with alarm functions reminding its users to take medications and meals.

The smart notebook is tailored to reduce the fear of the elderly in using technology as it comes with a large screen and convenient menu options. It also provides customized study materials for its users to help maintain their cognitive functions.

The third type, being the convergence of the first two, is equipped with a chatbot service to allow for two-way communication. Linked to sensors and cameras, it can detect the emotions and movement of its users during the conversation which can enable more human-like communication.

The latest efforts by the province come as South Korea is undergoing drastic demographic changes with a sharp increase in the elderly population and single households.

It is expected that the country will become a super-aging society by 2025 where more than 20 percent of the total population is aged 65 years and older.