One of the frustrating things about modern life is that no one talks anymore. Take a look around the dinner table if you go out for a meal with friends and everyone’s phones are on the table, quickly glancing at their screens every few minutes.
But some people still yearn for that personal interaction, especially those that live along, Korean researchers have discovered.
The group from Yonsei University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed Fribo, a robot designed for human interaction. The robot listens for “living noise” – essentially the sound of someone going about their everyday life – and then starts interacting if it feels the person needs a chat with a friend.
It doesn’t use voice recognition or record any of the sound, but is there purely for conversation, giving friends the chance to chat to each other if they feel lonely.
Fribo can recognise the sound of a vacuum cleaner for example, the microwave, a washing machine, a fridge door opening and closing or a bedroom door and will then use this as a cue to understand when someone’s home. It’ll learn what more of these noises are over time, coming to understand your daily routine.
Alongside these listening sensors, it can also identify levels of humidity, temperature and light to further confirm a human companion is around and ready to interact. When it realises you’re at home, it’ll send a message to other Fribos in your friends’ homes, telling them what you’re doing and asking whether they’d like to check in. It serves more as a cue to remind you that your friends are around and you should perhaps give them a call. It won’t tell your friend who you are, unless that friend asks, ensuring privacy for both parties.
Although Fribo is a nice idea, it does confirm that the world is moving so fast, we often forget to check in with those that matter most and we’re increasingly turning to tech to remind us when to talk.