French startup aims to enrich at-home elderly care with Cutii the companion robot

It’s a fact of life: Everyone grows old. But today’s elderly population is growing at a rate faster than the global population as a whole. It has tripled since 1950, according to a report by the United Nations, and it will triple again into 2050. The U.N. calls population aging an unprecedented, pervasive, and enduring phenomenon that will resonate throughout societies around the world, as bigger pension funds and care for the elderly fall on smaller groups of people.

But with an aging population comes a fresh marketplace where emerging technologies may be able solve a new set of problems. Startups in the burgeoning field of care and companion robots certainly think so, and they’re betting on it with mobile and responsive machines that help make old age easier for the elderly.

One of the newcomers to the field is French startup Yumii with Cutii, a companion robot designed specifically for at-home elderly care.

“Yumii improves seniors’ daily lives and well-being by simplifying their interactions with friends, families, caretakers and doctors,” Antoine Bataille, Yumii CEO, told Digital Trends. “Our vocal and facial recognition robot, named Cutii, provides elders with access to a full catalog of activities and services.”

Cutii responds to verbal cues to offer users a catalog of services and activities. It can’t assist with day-to-day tasks like cooking and doing the dishes, but can schedule and coordinate enrichment and well-being activities like contacting family members, arranging doctor’s appointments, and signing up for fitness classes. The robot can be controlled manually with a remote or it can be left to navigate autonomously around the home.

Cutii is like a smartphone on wheels. Users can ask it to access contacts, video call relatives, add appointments to the calendar, interact with connected devices, and even take a virtual tour around a museum. Cutii isn’t as … well, cute as the Japanese carebot Robear, nor doesn’t sport that same features as more advanced robots like the Care-O-bot series, but it doesn’t have the same price tag either.

Yumii was selected as a CES 2017 Innovation Awards Honoree in the Tech For a Better World category for it’s Cutii companion robot.

The company currently has a working prototype and says it has received positive feedback from three-month trials with a few elderly clients. It hopes to deliver around 500 Cutii’s by the end of 2017 at a fee of $60 per month.