Meet Ballie, Samsung's new AI-powered robot execs call the 'next evolution of wellness'

LAS VEGAS—At the CES 2020 show on Monday, Samsung unveiled a new "personal care robot" that uses artificial intelligence to help seniors connect with smart devices in the home and can serve as a fitness assistant.

During a keynote speech at the conference, Hyun-Suk Kim, Samsung president and CEO, consumer electronics, said the AI-powered robot, called Ballie, represents the future of personalized care. The small, ball-shaped robot has sensors and cameras to patrol your home, keep an eye on your pets and communicate with other smart devices.

"Ballie understands you, supports you, and reacts to your needs to be actively helpful around the house," Kim said.

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Samsung executives touted the potential for robotics, AI and wearables to enhance the health and wellness of consumers by focusing on their individual needs. The company is investing in AI capabilities combined with hardware, such as fitness trackers, to provide consumers with customized support for their health.

Sebastian Seung, executive vice president and chief research scientist at Samsung Electronics, said Ballie represented the "next evolution of wellness."

"We see on-device AI as central to truly personalized experiences. On-device AI puts you in control of your information and protects your privacy, while still delivering the power of personalization," he said.

An AI-powered robot like Ballie can serve as a virtual personal trainer to help address health issues "before you get sick," he said.

Only one day into the CES 2020 show and robots already were generating a lot of buzz. There's a robot that brings you toilet paper, pet robots, "happiness" robots and the Misty II robot that can be used for eldercare.

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Partnership with Kaiser Permanente

Samsung executives also highlighted personalized health solutions the company developed in partnership with Kaiser Permanente. The health system worked with Samsung on a home-based, virtual cardiac rehabilitation solution that pairs Samsung’s smartwatches that have built-in optical sensors with the company's HeartWise app to track each patient’s daily heart rate and activities. The data collected are automatically uploaded to the patient’s chart so clinicians and physical therapists can track patients' progress and engage with them.

While cardiac rehabilitation programs are effective for reducing readmissions, most patients don't complete their programs because it's inconvenient to go to the hospital or medical center to do it, Seung said.

The virtual program resulted in a 74% improvement in completion rates compared to clinic-based programs and reduced readmission rates to less than 2%, according to Tadashi Funahashi, M.D., who leads clinical innovation at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California.

Funahashi said Kaiser Permanente plans to expand the solution to pulmonary care and mental health.