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This article first appeared in Digital Edge, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on November 30, 2020 - December 6, 2020

Recent studies have shown that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on mental health, and created new challenges for people already suffering from mental illnesses. Stress and isolation have led to eating disorders, difficulty in sleeping and an increase in alcohol consumption and substance abuse. Thankfully, there are tech gadgets that can alleviate some of the loneliness, and add life and movement to the home.

 1  Hexa Robot Planter

The Hexa robot by Vincross is built to take care of the succulent plant on its head, and will chase sunlight or retreat into the shade as and when needed.

While under the sun, Hexa’s head can rotate a full 360 degrees to help each leaf soak up sunlight. When it is time for the plant to be watered, it will do a cute “rain dance” to catch your attention.

Using its six nimble legs, the Hexa can move in any direction and around objects. It also uses infrared sensors, distance sensors and even a high-resolution night vision camera to detect and understand its surroundings.

 2  Bond Touch Bracelet

The Bond Touch bracelet helps long-distance couples connect, literally through touch. A simple tap on the bracelet will transmit a vibration to the partner bracelet, regardless of distance.

The bracelet comes with an app that allows the user to follow the partner’s current status and be notified if he or she missed a touch. Not only would it be a great Christmas gift, it also adds a “human touch” to make those living alone feel less lonely.

The bracelet is waterproof for up to one metre underwater and has a battery life of up to four days.

 3  HB Ring

This piece of “smart jewellery” allows the wearer to see the real-time heartbeat of a loved one by simply tapping on it. 

If the HB ring is taken off and the real-time heartbeat is unavailable, it will transmit the last recorded heartbeat instead. The ring also has a random mode, where it will randomly show the user the partner’s heartbeat as a surprise during the day. The HB ring is built from premium materials such as sapphire glass and 18-karat rose gold, and is targeted at the luxury segment.

 4  Friendship Lamp

Although simple in concept, the Friendship Lamp can change the way friends and couples communicate with one another. Tapping on one lamp will also turn on its twin. Users can send different-coloured lights to convey a variety of messages, with the intention of helping them stay connected. The Friendship Lamp uses lighting to convey a particular mood or emotion that can be hard to express through words alone. It works via WiFi and is easy to set up and connect.

 5  Robotic pets

Do not let their plastic and metal exteriors fool you. Robotic technology has progressed to the point where well-built robotic pets have become serious competitors to their live counterparts.

Some pets, such as Sony’s Aibo robot dog, are built to replicate a live pet’s movements and behaviour. Aibo’s expressions and array of movements can be surprisingly lifelike, offering the warmth and companionship needed without the baggage associated with being a pet owner, such as feeding and cleaning up after them.

Others, such as Sphero’s BB-8 droid, have embraced their robotic identity and are modelled after the actual BB-8 droid seen in the Disney Star Wars films. It may not have Aibo’s advanced features and artificial intelligence, but having a ball of cuteness patrolling your home on autopilot adds a lot of movement to the static atmosphere of those who live alone.

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