SEOUL, Nov. 9 (UPI) — In South Korea, one of the digitally related societies on the planet, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the expansion of contactless expertise in on a regular basis life. However one group is discovering itself struggling in a fast-changing world of communications apps, quick food-ordering kiosks and robotic waiters: senior residents.

The Seoul metropolis authorities is attempting to assist bridge the digital divide with a brand new program that makes use of specifically designed robots to show seniors learn how to use smartphones and touchscreen kiosks. This system, which is able to educate 3,000 members over the following three months at 17 services, launched final week.

“Our aim is closing the digital hole between younger folks and seniors,” mentioned Shin Eun-kyong, enterprise outreach supervisor of the Seoul Digital Basis, town company that’s operating this system along with 5 native district governments.

“There are lots of cellular gadgets, kiosks and digital gadgets lately,” she mentioned. “However some seniors can not use these gadgets by themselves. So we predict this makes them really feel remoted from society.”

At West Seoul Senior Welfare Heart on Tuesday, a bunch of 10 seniors had their first experiences with a small robotic named Liku, which used voice directions, gestures and a specifically modified smartphone to show them learn how to use KakaoTalk, a ubiquitous messaging app utilized in South Korea.

Liku is related to a central server and might reply roughly 200 conversational questions and supply data comparable to the present climate. The small black-and-white humanoid robotic has expressive digital eyes and is designed to work together through facial recognition and voice responses.

The town has labored for over a 12 months with a neighborhood startup firm known as Torooc, which is growing Liku as a companion robotic for dwelling use, for the customized instructing software.

“We would like the robots to be pleasant,” Shin mentioned. “We additionally assume they’ve some benefits over instructing with people head to head. It may be tiring to go over the identical issues again and again, however a robotic can repeat the directions till the seniors perceive.”

For the primary group of senior residents to make use of the robots, it was a brand new expertise however one they discovered largely optimistic.

“I’ve solely ever used a robotic vacuum earlier than,” mentioned Han Okay-dong, 73. “However this robotic began instructing me step-by-step in a method that I can perceive and that may keep in my head. I need to work with it extra sooner or later and maintain advancing.”

Han mentioned she’s confronted frustrations utilizing smartphones and kiosks in her on a regular basis life, as produce other senior residents on the heart.

“I am getting older, so its unavoidable that utilizing [new technology] is getting harder for me,” mentioned one other 73-year-old, Yoon Kwang-soon.

Yoon mentioned that it took some time to heat as much as utilizing the Liku robotic, however that he hopes it’s going to assist him to additionally be taught extra superior options on KakaoTalk, comparable to sharing photographs.

“I wasn’t used to working with a robotic so it felt unfamiliar to me at first,” he mentioned. “But when I’ve time I need to come right here and use it once more.”

A take a look at program that was run for round 100 seniors in August discovered that 87% of members had been glad and that 83% wished to proceed in this system, in line with the Seoul metropolis authorities.

Additionally on show on the West Seoul heart was a customized touchscreen kiosk that gives walk-throughs for quite a lot of real-world situations, comparable to ordering meals or shopping for a film ticket. Seniors had been capable of observe with a pill app earlier than utilizing the kiosk to finish a transaction from begin to end.

Solely two of the observe kiosk machines at the moment exist, however a wider rollout is deliberate for subsequent 12 months, mentioned Shin of the Seoul Digital Basis.

The digital coaching has develop into particularly well timed as South Korea is trying to make contactless — or “untact,” in native parlance — applied sciences a key a part of President Moon Jae-in’s $62 billion Digital New Deal stimulus program.

This system is trying to place South Korea as a frontrunner in addressing the surging demand for distant providers pushed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tasks embrace constructing sensible hospitals for telemedicine and supporting small- and medium-size enterprise with digital conferencing. Investments will goal untact applied sciences comparable to robots, drones, AI and 5G wi-fi networks.

Shin mentioned that town will develop the usage of the Liku robots into new areas over the approaching months, comparable to serving to to teach seniors on avoiding phishing scams. They can even convey the robots to younger kids subsequent 12 months, with plans to make the most of them for instructing topics comparable to English.

“The pandemic is altering society, and it’s extra vital than ever to search out non face-to-face methods to show and to assist everybody adapt to the untact world,” Shin mentioned.