Helper robot gets glowing review from 89-year-old Ella

2:35 min

How would it feel to actually live with a robot, sort of like Rosie in the Jetsons? One senior citizen in Helsingborg has been the first in Sweden to try out the prototype, Hobbit, reports SVT, and after spending a month with it, she had lots of positive things to say about the experience. 

Ella Lundström uses a little remote control to summon Hobbit, who comes rolling in from its charging station in the bedroom, to where the 89-year-old is sitting her living room. Now if you're a fan of the author J.R.R. Tolkein, you might be disappointed to know that aside from its name, this robot bears no resemblance to Bilbo Baggins. No, this Hobbit has a squarish body, that kind of looks like a tall copy machine, and from a simple boxy head, peer two round eyes.

Lundström has spent a month with the robot, and she seems really taken by it, saying it's been a really nice, fun month, and that she's tried everything the robot can do. It's been stimulating and inspiring, she adds.

The idea is for the robot to be able to do everything from sending for help if she falls, to fetching medicines, to holding exercise sessions.

Susanne Frennert, a PhD candidate at Lund University's engineering school, says that the robot is built to help old people at home, and they hope that these people will feel more independent and have more control at home, and that the robot can help.

But Frennert emphasizes that the robot is not intended to replace humans who help older people at home, known as hemtjänst in Swedish. The robot is supposed to be a complement to that, she explains.

The robot is a result of an EU-financed three-year research project, and a collaboration between universities in Lund, Vienna and a research institute in Crete.

One of the goals of the project is to make a relatively cheap robot, in this case around SEK 120,000, since more advanced robots can cost around a million kronor or more.

"It's opened a window," says Ella. "You don't manage to sit around and ponder death."

This segment is based on one in Swedish by Johanna Karlsson at SVT.