Do I really need... a robot companion?
What does it do?
According to the scientists behind Fribo ( www.snipca. com/27594), a South Korean prototype for a household robot (pictured), it listens out for ‘living noise’ and learns what it means: the washing machine running, people opening or closing doors, the microwave pinging, and so on. It then communicates each event to the users of other Fribos, not saying who it’s talking about but simply, for example, ‘Someone just opened the fridge. I wonder what food they’re going to have?’ (It can only wonder; it can’t recognise foods – yet).
Why would I want it?
Fribo’s inventors think it will help people who live alone – an increasingly common phenomenon – feel like part of a community. You can knock near a Fribo and it’ll ping other users, then tell you who responds, breaking the ice for a chat. Or if you’re too shy, at least you’ll be reminded that other people exist.
What’s the catch?
If you think a robot constantly listening to your voice might seem a bit creepy, consider how much spookier it would be to have it figuring out what you’re doing without even having to be told. And talking of spooky, the Fribo appears to have been designed as disturbingly as possible. It looks like the silhouette of a cartoon rabbit’s ghost. If we lived alone, it would be on our shopping list just below a machine that randomly creaks the floorboards in the middle of the night.
So can I do without it?
Yes. But Fribo’s testers (small groups of young adults) did report that it ‘helped break the silence and emptiness’ and ‘the amount of conversation has increased’. Maybe there could be something in it.
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