Most robots work for their living, but some can get by just on their looks. Fujitsu’s teddy bear robot is certainly one of the latter. The animated stuffed animal robot sits around, waves at you, and falls asleep. Not very practical but very cute. Too cute even. Designed to be a companion to the elderly or young children, the teddy bear bot uses a camera inside its nose to recognize faces and perform behaviors to endear it to its owner. Using 12 actuators in its body (3 face, 3 neck, 6 in the torso) the robot can display over 300 different actions and has a wide array of sensors (microphone, accelerometers, skin touch monitors, etc) to let it know which one you are trying to coax out of it. It’s a machine designed to tug at your heart strings, and it does a damn good job. I’m not saying that it was sent here to earn our trust and betray us during the eventual robot uprising…but it could if it wanted. Check out Fujitsu’s teddy bear bot in the videos below. Social robots keep getting better and better.
Fujitsu isn’t alone in taking the cutesy approach to achieving acceptance from humans. We’ve seen Hanson Robotics develop a plucky boy hero (the Zeno bot) that acts with a lovable character to pull an audience into his story. Likewise, MIT is working on a teddy bear robot that uses QTC robot skin to know how someone is holding it. Appealing to our inner child seems like a sure fire path to success. Let’s face it, we build robots to be one of two things: slaves or pets. And while all the car-building, factory-improving bots are damn impressive, there’s something about social robots that really capture the imagination. It could be that the companion bots of the future bypass sleek and sexy and head straight for kid-appeal. Look at the Fujitsu teddy bear – the awkward movements would push it firmly into the Uncanny Valley if not for its fuzzy exterior. Cuteness makes it acceptable. Someday thousands or millions of elders and children could draw great comfort from holding the bot close to them. …Its cold hard eyes will probably pulse with hate, but its cuddly body will be so full of love.