There are a huge number of robots in the world, and each of them has its own mission. For example, humanoid robots from Boston Dynamics can be used in construction and for loading heavy loads into cars and ships. But among all of them, there are devices that help older people with daily tasks and prevent them from feeling lonely. Recently, the Japanese company Vstone has created a robot called Hiro-chan, which partially solves exactly this problem. It is made in the form of a baby, capable of expressing emotions. The creators believe that while caring for him, people from nursing homes will feel that someone needs them. But why does the robot have no face and is it capable of reproducing only sounds?
About the unusual robot and the intent of its developers was described in the publication IEEE Spectrum . Outwardly, the novelty looks like a soft toy in the form of a baby, which is capable of reproducing more than a hundred different sounds made by real children. When the robot is left alone, it begins to cry and as if to demand to be picked up and reassured. If you pick him up and hug him, he slowly calms down and starts laughing. The developers believe that if older people care at least about this device, they will get the opportunity to experience positive emotions and feel that they are not alone.
Why doesn’t the robot have a face?
Vstone employees decided to create a robot without a face due to the fact that at the moment no one was able to create a mechanism that can realistically portray emotions using facial expressions. No matter how the engineers try, when you look at the “emotional” robots, a person has a fear of an ominous valley. We have already written about this phenomenon many times. For example, in 2018, we surveyed the humanoid robot Sophia , which is very similar to a real person, but because of the sharp and unnatural movements of her face, it terrifies people.
In order not to scare people, the engineers decided to create a robot that expresses its emotions solely with the help of sounds. Using hundreds of different recordings of cries and laughter of infants, they have achieved that the robot changes its mood as smoothly as possible and does not cause hostility. When a person picks up a robotic baby in his arms, he understands this with the help of accelerometers that report a change in the position of his body relative to the surrounding space. If you hug him and thereby express love, the robot begins to experience joy.
It is worth agreeing that the idea of Vstone seems rather strange. At the moment, we can’t say for sure whether the robot can really save older people from loneliness. But, perhaps, the researchers know something that is not clear to us – after all, it was not in vain that they decided to work on such a strange project?
Testing a Hiro-chan robot is not a big deal. Due to the lack of a complex mechanism for expressing emotions through facial expressions, the creators were able to achieve the lowest possible cost of new items. It is reported that it costs no more than 5.5 thousand yen, which in terms of our money is approximately 3 thousand rubles. Many nursing homes will be able to allow such a robot, but the demand will probably arise only from Japanese institutions. For residents of the United States and especially Russia, robotic technology still seems to be something suspicious, but in Japan they have become something quite familiar. By the way, you can read about the Japanese love for robots in our special material .