With more people than ever living alone, finding new ways to get sufficient social interaction is extremely important.
No matter how independent you may think you are, at the end of the day, humans are still social creatures. If we don’t get enough daily social interaction, eventually our health will start to suffer, and there is no doubt that loneliness is a major problem in many societies throughout the world.
Unfortunately, getting enough social interaction is not always easy to do, especially since there are so many other options to keep ourselves entertained that require much less effort — mainly things that involve screen time, like watching TV or playing around on our computers.
With so much time spent alone in front of screens, it’s easy to see technology as the problem. However, one group of researchers in Korea hope that technology can also be a part of the solution.
Meet Fribo — the robot that was designed to help lonely young people maintain connections.
While some companies hope to help combat loneliness by designing social robots that chat with their human owners, Fribo was built to encourage people to interact with the friends they already have.
The idea is that a group of friends all buy Fribos and keep them in their individual homes. The Fribo listens in on the activity that is taking place within the house, and then periodically sends out updates to all the other people in the group.
Think of it like a social media status that instead of being made by a human, gets sent out automatically by Fribo. The intended audience is also much smaller and more personal than say, posting a Facebook status would be.
Microphones in the robot recognize normal household activities, like when someone comes in the front door, opens the fridge, or turns on a light.
The robot then broadcasts this information out to the other members of the group. In their own homes, they will hear their Fribo say something like:
“Oho! Your friend opened the refrigerator..Does someone plan to eat something?”
Then, everyone in the group can send responses between one another by texting into the group chat.
You can also respond by knocking twice next to Fribo, who will then send out a message on your behalf:
“What are you doing? Kwangmin is curious,” Fribo says.
Clapping three times makes Fribo send out an approval message. For example, you can send your friends a “welcome back” message just by clapping.
Fribo even has a night mode.
The idea is that Fribo will help foster communication among groups of friends by keeping everyone aware of each others’ activities.
Whether it’s a good idea or bad idea is yet to be determined, but at least some people are on board with it, it seems.
When Frido was presented at the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction, a large number of individuals seemed excited. They interviewed a few people who had a chance to test Fribo, and the responses were generally very positive.
According to The Verge, this is what one user had to say:
I can imagine what my friend is doing and I feel like we live in the same house, but in another room. It’s like sharing daily life activities with friends.”
Another user had this interesting anecdote to share:
“I usually wake up late in the morning, but when I began to notice my friends getting ready early, I started thinking about starting the day earlier with my friends.”
Although Fribo is still in the prototype phase and can’t yet be bought in stores, it is entirely possible this might become the next big thing.
At the very least, it’s certainly an interesting way to try and tackle the growing loneliness problem that currently exists in our modern digital world.
Watch the video below to check out this fascinating robot in action.
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