A new therapeutic robot called the Babyloid has been developed that may help relieve symptoms of depression in the elderly. The robot is a natural extension of baby doll therapy, encouraging the patient to take on an active care-giving role. Its unusual appearance treads a line somewhere between a mechanical object and a living being, with the general design motif inspired by a Beluga whale calf. It measures approximately 44cm (17″) in length and weighs 2.2kg (4.8 lbs). The robot’s arms can wiggle, its eyelids can blink, and its mouth can open thanks to built-in actuators, and the silicone resin face is loaded with LEDs to create the illusion of running tears or red cheeks.
The robot was developed by Kanou Masayoshi, Associate Professor at Chukyo University of Science and Technology, who has worked with Business Design Laboratory on the ifbot (communication robot) and Mechadroid Type C3 (receptionist robot). Essentially the robot can simulate a bad mood (such as hunger or crying) and will then settle down. Experiments were conducted at a nursing home over the course of two weeks with 5 subjects. Active observation and interviews each day assessed whether patients accepted the robot or not, and psychological changes before and after use such as any effects on mood.
Japan’s populous Aichi Prefecture has built a reputation on its automobile manufacturing industry, but now corporations are looking to build a new pillar by investing in next-generation robotics (as outlined by the Aichi Artificial Intelligence Research Institute and ROBO-FES websites). More experiments with the Babyloid are needed, and some 10 companies from the area will collaborate to build a new prototype over the next two years, and Professor Kanou has stated he hopes such a robot could sell for around 50,000 JPY ($600 USD) in the future.
A few more photos follow after the break.
[source: Robonable (JP)]
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