When I Say “Grandpa”, You Say “Bot”

I love technology, but I don’t like the idea of using it as a cure for loneliness. But a lot of people are getting this idea, and designing gadgets for people who spend too much time alone, like seniors and young single people, but especially seniors.

First up is Hasbro’s companion robot golden retriever. They have also made a robot cat, which…damn it all, makes me think of this song.

Anyway, back to the dog. It makes cute puppy sounds, has a life-like fur coat and mimics the soft breathing and heartbeat of a dog when you pet it. That does sound kind of adorable, and I can see the appeal of all the fun of a dog without the feeding and picking up of poop, but there’s another problem. This robot dog can’t move on its own, so you have to go get it.

So, if you’re a senior whose mobility is so poor that you can’t get out much, hence the whole loneliness problem, wouldn’t it be terrible to have a cuddly puppy-like thing that you’d just love to hold, but you can’t reach it? Couldn’t you at least make it so the thing comes when you say its name? I mean, it costs over $100. That’s an expensive stuffed animal.

Next up is Kirobo, made by Toyota. It is supposed to be a 10-inch doll-like robot thing that responds to speech and chatters mindlessly at you. But again, you have to carry it around, and it can’t do anything useful. I mean, at least the robot dog mimics the heartbeat and breathing of an animal, which might produce the health effects of petting a dog. Sure, you could say that talking to a lonely person is useful, but it won’t be if the conversation is meaningless. I imagine it will do one of two things: frustrate the heck out of the person trying to talk to this thing, and diminish the person’s social skills so that when they actually talk to another human, they won’t be able to do it. And you can have all of this for the low low price of $500. Hey! Wasn’t Jibo about that much? Oh, he was a little more. As much as he was creepy, at least he could be useful.

I guess I’m not the only person who doesnt like this trend. The Society of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul commissioned an ad predicting what the future would be if we went all robot caregivers. Sure, their main job is supplying folks in need of support with volunteers, but I can see their point.

I included the link and embedded the video because some of the stuff in the video is described in the article.

A robot doesn’t understand the finer points of human interaction. Everything the robot does makes perfect logical sense, but it doesn’t work at all because humans aren’t always logical.

After talking about lonely seniors, I have this overwhelming need to call Grandma. Maybe I’ll do that now.

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