Selfishly this week I have been trying to sneak humanoid robots into every aspect of my teaching. I am totally smitten with them, so I am reading extensively on the subject.
One topic of discussion that naturally arose from some of the conversations I had with my students, was that of companion robots. In Japan, companion robots are filling many social gaps, the primary one being that of the increasing ageing population with a constant soaring demographic.
Other kinds of hope robots can offer in the spectrum of companionship is that of pets, like PARO the fluffy baby seal. PARO is marketed as a therapeutic robot, who claims to reduce stress and improve relationships between patients and their caregivers. Other pets include AIBO the robot dog, created by Sony in 1999. Perfect pet solutions without the maintenance a domestic pet requires.
Perhaps the most intriguing king of companionship robots can offer, is that of romantic companionship. Long gone are the days of computers waiting for humans to provide a sense of significance, the humanoid robots of today are able to meet our gaze, track our motions, speak to us and recognise us. While for some this immediately raises issues of ethics, for others, robots could provide all the comforts of companionship without the obligation of commitment, or the perfect partner that is there when you want them but that can be switch off! Pepper is the first humanoid robot to be adopted in Japanese households, and you can read more about Pepper here