The landscape of the healthcare industry is evolving with the use of AI and robotics. Sophia is a social humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics. Sophia was activated on February 14, 2016 and made her first public appearance at South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in mid-March 2016 in Austin, Texas, United States. A new robot (sister to Sophia) with a human face and advanced artificial intelligence is launching this year and will be able to care for older people, especially those isolated by the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis. AI developer Singularity Studio and Hanson Robotics have teamed up to launch the robot, named Grace, as part of their new joint venture, Awakening Health. The plan is to mass-produce a beta version of Grace by August, said David Lake, Chief Executive of the joint venture between Hanson Robotics and Singularity Studios, and will deploy her next year in locations in Hong Kong, mainland China, Japan, and Korea. The cost is tens of thousands of dollars but will decrease when more are available.

Grace is combined with technologies from both companies. The Hanson Sophia 2020 provides the robotics platform, while the Singularity Net’s (SNET) AI enables the robot to interact with users, conversing with them, and responding to their needs. Hanson’s robots have been used for other medical purposes, including elder care and autism treatment, while SNET has been a part of talk therapy and disease analysis programs. The verbal, animated and realistic AI personality is designed for therapeutic conversations and can detect and respond appropriately to patients based on both what they say and the emotional context, while the humanoid face emulates realistic human interaction with internal architecture possesses sophisticated software, chat and artificial intelligence systems designed for general reasoning while putting the user at ease about sharing their thoughts and medical information more than they would with a screen or audio-only AI.

“This merging of the tech and medical arena is an important initiative by the world’s leading robotics and AI team,” Awakening Health CEO David Lake said in a statement. “The stellar team previously connected through Sophia, the most advanced, celebrity humanoid robot. Following years of serving university research, museums, and other industries, HR launched Sophia 2020 for R&D and B2B applications. Now, Sophia’s sister, Grace, allows for quick deployment with existing hardware, AI, and charm to serve the healthcare industry.”

Awakening Health states that Grace is the first humanoid robotic assistant of its kind. The combination of AI and healthcare is the new wave. COVID-19 has started the enlightenment with new ways of using technology for safety purposes. For instance, voice apps like My Day for Seniors sends updates on the health and safety of a user to whoever they choose, like the New Alexa Care Hub which is designed to let families keep a virtual eye on older loved ones by connecting Alexa accounts. One account becomes the emergency contact, and the voice assistant keeps them updated about their family member’s activity. Retirement communities are also experimenting with using voice AIs more to improve patient care. Tech solutions for seniors’ developer K4Connect to more than 8,000 Amazon Echo Dot smart speakers to retirement communities with its K4Community software, while Google has given 1,000 Nest Hub Max smart displays to retirement communities in Washington State for as a pilot program to test a simplified interface for seniors.

Grace and Sophia will likely find plenty of eager buyers with interest from organizations that provide technological solutions for healthcare. Awakening Health has set up a deal with Connected Living, which provides content management systems, for retirement communities in the U.S. to prepare for that moment. Connected Living already incorporates robotic options to its products and is the exclusive North American distributor.