Good health starts at home, thanks to a new robot pharmacist that aims to keep you feeling well. Pillo, created by New York-based company Pillo Health, can answer your health and wellness questions, connect you directly with healthcare professionals, and securely manage your vitamins and medication; storing, dispensing, and even ordering refills when you need them. Plus, the more you use and interact with the home-based gadget, the more its functionalities grow. The gizmo, which stands at 13 inches tall and can hold 250 medium-size pills, gets to know your family through face and voice recognition. Company co-founder James Wyman explains how Pillo could take care of you and your family.


What is Pillo? And what is the story behind this robot?


Pillo is an intelligent health and wellness assistant. The story behind Pillo comes from a personal experience that one of our founders had — a close family member regularly struggled to remember to take very important medication and ultimately became very sick. We realized that there had to be a better way, not just for people to manage their medication, but for people to manage their health (and the health of their loved ones) at home.


Pillo is not just for the sick. Although it’s true that Pillo can massively improve the lives of people living with chronic illness and who have to take medication every day. Pillo is for anybody who wants to better understand and monitor their health and wellness needs (or the needs of a loved one).


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How can Pillo manage a family’s health?

When released, he will answer health-related questions, connect you with healthcare professionals, as well as securely store and dispense vitamins and medication; he can also re-order them for you when you are running low.

He does this via internal sensors inside the device, as well as using our own proprietary software. He identifies users through facial recognition software that we are sourcing from large technology companies. The combination of these technologies allow Pillo to identify, interact and engage with different users in the home.

Most importantly, Pillo is a platform — we are building a very specific set of features into the first generation of Pillo. However, in time, both the team here at Pillo Health as well as external developers and partners can build all sorts of features that will allow Pillo to help us better manage our health and integrate into our connected homes.

How does Pillo work?

Pillo works by intelligently integrating many functionalities into a seamless user experience. Some of these functionalities are implemented locally, to let Pillo work even when he’s offline. Other more advanced functionalities are cloud-based, to give Pillo all the resources needed to care about your health.

Pillo has an operating system based on Android and runs on a Quadcore ARM processor. Pillo will use user vision algorithms to identify the user, as well as additional algorithms to convert voice to text. User requests will be processed by our ontology engine for interpretation. Mechanically, Pillo is quite complex and there are several different parts such as proprietary containers, motors and sensors to store and dispense pills.

How can Pillo be constantly learning?

Pillo will constantly evolve as new applications and functions are implemented by our engineering team and by third party software developers. This is a “common meaning” of the term learn. However, in a more technical sense, Pillo’s software will use machine learning techniques for data analysis and user detection, so that the more a user interacts with the device, the more Pillo will be able to understand and learn about that user’s habits and preferences.

Is it not dangerous to entrust the health of people to a robot?

I’d imagine that people had this same reaction when autopilot was invented for aircraft, or when we moved from manual accountants to software that now runs multinational companies. People are inherently wary of technological change, particularly when that change appears to replace humans. But the truth is that most errors are caused by human error, not by machines. Machines are incredibly good at doing what they are designed to do. Pillo is not here to replace nurses, or doctors, or even your own responsibility to manage your health. Pillo is here to give you and your health providers the tools that you need to make staying healthy and caring for loved ones just that much easier.

What future features could be integrated into Pillo?

In Pillo’s current form he has both voice and facial recognition technology built in, as well as Wi-Fi to connect to the internet and Bluetooth to connect to smart devices in your home. That sounds like a lot to pack into a “pill dispenser,” but that’s because we envision so much more for Pillo.

Pillo is a healthcare platform for your home. We are considering building mobility management and fall detection functionality for the elderly. We’re also thinking about creating a nutrition dashboard where you simply tell Pillo what you’re cooking or what you’ve eaten (or input it via the app) and Pillo generates a dashboard of the nutrients and calories that you are ingesting (or burning) over a set period of time. Pillo would also be great in situations where people are taking pain medication, which is extremely addictive. He could securely store patient’s medication and dispense it as required, making sure that the patient is not overconsuming specific meds. We have had a lot of interest from consumers and potential partners for all three of these features.

How does Pillo store data and is it secure?

In the U.S., any company that handles a person’s sensitive health information is required by law to adhere to certain standards set forth by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). These are designed to protect the integrity of the entire healthcare system because ultimately it is all connected, from startups to large hospitals and insurance companies. We will be HIPAA compliant. That means that we will have to follow very strict protocols around the encryption, transportation, and storing of our users’ private data. We will have to adhere to physical, technical and network safeguards to ensure that our users’ personal health information is as secure as possible. That means for example, end to end encryption, as well as using HIPAA compliant hosting providers and dedicated secure servers.

—Daniel Casillas