This Robot Helper Is Designed to Keep Older People Company

Loneliness and isolation among seniors in the U.S. is considered an epidemic. Social isolation can change a person’s genome in potentially harmful ways, comparable to what obesity or smoking does to you—increasing risks of heart attacks, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more. But how do you pull solitary seniors, who may be physically unable to leave their homes, from isolation?

Some companies think technology is the answer. There are virtual reality experiences designed for older adults and anyone else with limited mobility. And then there are robot pets, designed to socialize with older people, including a seal, a dog, and a cat. In the future, though, the home robot friend designed for seniors may look more like a tabletop art piece, according to fuseproject’s Yves Béhar, the designer behind products like the Jawbone UP and the SodaStream Source.

Fuseproject created an artificial intelligence console, ElliQ, designed to keep older people engaged and connected to friends and families, as part of a partnership for a technology company called Intuition Robotics. ElliQ suggests TED Talks and audiobooks, plays games, reminds people of their appointments and medications, arranges rides, and can even tell you that you should go for a walk if you’ve watched a lot of television that day.

It’s meant to be an easy way for older people to communicate with their families via Facebook, Skype, and similar technologies. Its screen can pull up videos and photos, and remote family members can even access data about their loved ones' environments (including the indoor temperature). As time goes on, ElliQ learns preferences and can pull up recommendations based on prior requests or input from other family members. It's kind of like Amazon's home helper robot Alexa, but created for people who spend a lot of time alone, but still don't quite understand how their Facebook timeline works.

The robot is on display as part of NEW OLD, an exhibit at the Design Museum in London, running until February 19. In February, Intuition Robots will begin a trial of the technology among people in the San Francisco area.

All images courtesy fuseproject and Intuition Robotics.

Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Qatar National Library's Panorama-Style Bookshelves Offer Guests Stunning Views
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The newly opened Qatar National Library in the capital city of Doha contains more than 1 million books, some of which date back to the 15th century. Co.Design reports that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) designed the building so that the texts under its roof are the star attraction.

When guests walk into the library, they're given an eyeful of its collections. The shelves are arranged stadium-style, making it easy to appreciate the sheer number of volumes in the institution's inventory from any spot in the room. Not only is the design photogenic, it's also practical: The shelves, which were built from the same white marble as the floors, are integrated into the building's infrastructure, providing artificial lighting, ventilation, and a book-return system to visitors. The multi-leveled arrangement also gives guests more space to read, browse, and socialize.

"With Qatar National Library, we wanted to express the vitality of the book by creating a design that brings study, research, collaboration, and interaction within the collection itself," OMA writes on its website. "The library is conceived as a single room which houses both people and books."

While most books are on full display, OMA chose a different route for the institution's Heritage Library, which contains many rare, centuries-old texts on Arab-Islamic history. This collection is housed in a sunken space 20 feet below ground level, with beige stone features that stand out from the white marble used elsewhere. Guests need to use a separate entrance to access it, but they can look down at the collection from the ground floor above.

If Qatar is too far of a trip, there are plenty of libraries in the U.S. that are worth a visit. Check out these panoramas of the most stunning examples.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images: Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

After Four Months, a Frank Lloyd Wright House in Glencoe, Illinois Goes Back on the Market

Most architecture nerds would be thrilled to live in an original Frank Lloyd Wright house, and occasionally, they get their chance—as long as they’re willing to pay a few million dollars. As of late 2017, there were Frank Lloyd Wright homes for sale in New York, Minnesota, Ohio, Connecticut, and elsewhere for $1 million dollars or more (in some cases, way more). Sometimes, you can find a deal, though, like the $445,000 Usonian home that went on the market in Michigan in 2016.

Sadly, as Curbed reports, a newly for-sale Wright house in Glencoe, Illinois is not such a deal anymore. Only three months after its $752,000 sale, the 1914 Kier House in suburban Chicago has been renovated and is back on the market for $837,500.

Many Wright homes need a little love after decades of use. For one thing, the architect is somewhat notorious for building leaky roofs. Their small kitchens and shag carpeting are no longer quite so desirable, either.

But for many buyers and architects, restoring a Wright home is a labor of love, one that often takes several years and aims to respect the original designer’s genius while bringing the house up to modern standards. (For some of the historic homes, permanent easements also prohibit most exterior alterations, further limiting what a remodel can involve.)

The Prairie School-style house, though it has Honorary Landmark status, isn’t entirely original to Wright. It has a more modern kitchen, a new family room, and updated bathrooms (with a steam shower!). Previous owner Susan Cowen, who owned the house for a number of years and spent an undisclosed amount on refurbishing it, sold the residence in January to a pair of documentary filmmakers, according to Patch. The sale, which included a significant price drop, only took a few months. They, in turn, made a number of improvements. The owners fixed up the chimneys, boiler, and furnace, added a limestone bar separating the kitchen and dining room, and raised part of the ceiling above the stairs.

Now, four months later, it’s on sale again, and, thanks to the upgrades, a little pricier. The latest sellers may find, though, that not every Wright sale goes as quickly as their purchase. The architect’s homes are highly prized, but also known to be very difficult to sell, sometimes languishing on the market for years before finding a buyer.

[h/t Curbed]


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