NAO entertains Seniors - as Zora

Meet Zora - the NAO robot customized with brilliant new software from Zora Bots, to work in Senior Healthcare and Special education. 

Belgian company Zorabots designed the Zora software (running on a NAO robot) to have the personality and behaviors of  an 8-year-old girl.  With over 200 robots already adopted all over the world, Zora has been unanimously well-received both by health care professionals and seniors themselves. And at a mere USD 295 per month to lease the software, Zora is being seen as a game changer in the Senior Healthcare category. 

On Monday, Zora entertained 21 seniors at the Colony Club assisted living community in Sunrise, leading them in exercises, reading them a Christmas story and wowing them with her dance moves.

"That's clever, very clever," said Edith Hoffman, 85, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. "That's so wonderful. I've never seen anything like it."

You would think it would be challenging to command the attention of a room of Seniors when you stand at a mere 57 cm (22 inch) and weigh only 5,7kg.  But nothing could be further from the truth. The humanoid robot takes to the floor, and with a single finger movement, she has her audience spellbound.

Controlled via a tablet by health professionals, Zora then leads a physical therapy class, reads out the TV programmes for the day, the weather forecasts and then local news.

"They love Zora," said Lonnie Steckler, the center's executive director. "They look forward to Zora. She tells them stories and sings and dances with them. The residents hold her. They walk with her. She makes eye contact with you. She finds your face and looks up at you. Her movements are very humanistic."

Zora's audience, some in wheelchairs, listened with rapt attention as she read the poem by Clement Clarke Moore, "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

"He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle," Zora recited, letting out a shrill whistle that coaxed chuckles from the crowd — and startled a few dozing listeners.

One elderly gent got up, cane in hand, to enjoy one last dance with his robot friend.

Before making her exit, Zora read the day's lunch and dinner menu, then made the rounds, giving a personal goodbye to each of her admirers.

"See you later, alligator," she said to one woman. To another, "In a while, crocodile."

"Bye-bye Zora," said Edith Kropf, 95, a two-year resident of the Colony Club. "And thank you. I hope you'll be back next week."