Do I re­ally need... a ro­bot com­pan­ion?

Computer Active (UK) - - Reviews -

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.

VER­DICT: The qual­ity feel is backed up with ex­cel­lent per­for­mance and bat­tery life, but you have to cough up more money for a de­cent screen

★★★★☆

AL­TER­NA­TIVE: HP Spec­tre 13-af002na £1,599 Now in a fu­tur­is­tic ‘Ce­ramic White’ fin­ish, this super-thin 4K i7-8550u model is more pow­er­ful

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