Tuesday, September 25, 2007
IWB on Social Robots
The Huggable is a robotic communication avatar designed for social interactions, education, healthcare and other applications. It is essentially a very cute teddy bear, with a sensitive skin, embedded "intelligence" (i.e., hardware and software), wireless communications and the ability to see, hear, speak, touch and move. But what I find so compelling about The Huggable is that it can operate as an autonomous personal robot and as a semi-autonomous robotic avatar that is part of a human social network, providing a much richer set of interactions to the members of the network than is possible using PCs and similar devices.
There is a lot of activity in intelligent, autonomous, mobile robots for entertainment, education, protection and many other applications. Applications range from helping doctors and nurses perform their duties better (even remotely), to providing assistance to the elderly for improved mobility and strength (e.g., vacuuming, helping in getting out of bed, even companionship). Aging populations around the world are a big driver of personal robot products and applications.
The concept of semi-autonomous robots integrated into a social network is new, at least for me. But once you start thinking about potential applications, many come to mind, in areas as diverse as family communications, healthcare, education and entertainment.For example, imagine faraway grandparents being able to interact with their young grandchildren who are holding and playing with The Huggable. You can talk, read stories and sing to them. You can (virtually) hug them. You can watch and listen to their reactions as well as sense the way they hold and touch the teddy-bear-like device. Imagine a similar scenario with soldiers stationed around the world, being able to interact with their young children in a far richer, more emotional and satisfying way than a phone conversation. Or imagine the help it could provide children not getting enough nurturing and stimulation from their parents, by enabling family members, professionals or volunteers to get involved in their care.