The Japanese have a knack for inventing robots to replace human interaction – so far we’ve seen guide dogs, machines to assist elderly peoples’ movement, and even kissing machines. Now, Japanese researchers have developed Babyloid – a cuddly, interactive robot designed to relieve lonely senior citizens of depression. The cozy Babyloid fusses and coos until its caretaker comforts it, igniting a nurturing response in lonely folks.
Looking remarkably like the Glo Worm toy of the 80s, Babyloid is a fuzzy baby-shaped blob, with a large flat face and wide-set eyes. Two handless arms reach forward in helplessness, almost begging to be carried or hugged. The body is lined with sensors that detect movement, pressure, temperature, and light – which all factor in just how Babyloid acts. If it cries, the sensors detect the user rocking it to sleep, and therefore it becomes “comforted.” Red LED lights in the cheeks illuminate when Babyloid is happy, blue LED tears light up when it is upset, and it produces over 100 sounds.
According to the initial prototype studies in Japanese nursing homes, 8-minute interactions totaling 90 minutes a day alleviated residents stress and depression.
Babyloid’s creator, Masayoshi Kanoh, gave the robot a simple smiling face “to avoid the creepiness a realistic baby face can have.” If the prototype is produced for the mass market, a Babyloid interactive robot baby will set consumers back around $1,250.00. Although Babyloid has good intentions, we aren’t sure if buying a human replacement to interact with is any less depressing than being lonely in the first place.
Via New Scientist