Need Some Love? Here Are Robot Pets That Use AI To Mimic Emotions

By | December 22, 2018

Groove X Inc. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Kaname Hayashi holds a pair of Lovot robots during an unveiling event on December 18, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)Getty

Watch out puppies and kittens. You may have some competition. They are called Lovots.

Not love a lot. Not I love bots. But a Lovot, which is the combination of “love” and “robot.” This robot is a conglomeration of sensors, artificial intelligence, wheels to get around, wings that can flap, and big moving puppie-dog-like eyes, designed to respond to humans and mimic emotions. I say mimic, because these Lovots aren’t real live creatures, I think. Take a look at this Japan Times segment and see how real you think these robot companions appear:

Yes, this is certainly several steps above hugging your vacuum cleaner, which incidentally sucks. These Lovots come from Groove X, a start-up in Japan founded by CEO Kaname Hayashi. Hayashi used to be at Softbank, where he led development of the Pepper robot.

If you are hoping that the Lovots can help you lift firewood, do your taxes, perform surgery on a grape, or conquer humanity, that’s not their designated purpose, at least not for now. Their purpose is to provide something that all humans need besides oxygen, water, food, and K-pop music. That’s love. Or at least the perception of love.

According to the Lovot website,“Lovot will react to your moods and do all it can to fill you with joy and re-energize you. It may not be a living creature, but Lovot will warm your heart.” The robot includes a thermal camera so that it can find you and move towards you. It’s also emits heat like a living creature. As you can see in the video, its sensors allow it to react to hugs and other things that you may do.

If you don’t like the idea of naked Lovots wheeling around your house, you can dress them. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)Getty

Although Jennifer Lopez sang that love don’t cost a thing, these things are currently priced at around $ 3,100. You can now pre-order them with the first shipments scheduled for August 2019. You can also purchase clothes for the Lovot, in case you want to maintain some sense of decorum around your house or take your Lovot to the country club.

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What makes these Lovots seem more real? After all, no animal that I am aware of has wheels and no mouth. Well, it’s the physical reaction and response that they provide, a sometimes overlooked aspect of bonding and expression. That’s why asking Siri to say “I love you” over and over again isn’t quite the same, in case you have tried that. That’s also why using a hugging machine can feel more like getting the Heimlich maneuver.

Think about what would happen if you embraced someone and he or she either had no reaction or began flapping his or her arms wildly. How would that make you feel? If your answer is “great,” then maybe you are a bird. Otherwise, you probably would feel unsupported or like you were hugging a vacuum cleaner.

Generating appropriate responses, including physical ones is a new and challenging frontier for AI, meaning artificial intelligence and not Allen Iverson. So much of communication can be non-verbal. But a lot of this non-verbal communication differs among people and needs to be tailored to the person’s circumstances, background, and personality. Moreover, biases and stereotypes can govern someone’s reaction to a non-verbal response. For example, if you already like someone, you may think that a lack of strong expression means that person is cool, calm, and collected. If you don’t like the person, you may interpret it as being “standoffish.” Similarly, if someone you are pre-disposed to favor grins ear-to-ear that can seem friendly and warm-hearted. If you are biased against the person, you may think he or she is the Joker.

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Should puppies and kittens update their LinkedIn profiles for fear of being out jobs with the arrival of the Lovot? Currently, robots can mimic many things but they are still not living beings. However, if you are planning to build an army of puppies and kittens to then invade the tool shed, Lovots may serve you better.

Forbes – Healthcare