Pair of Lovots, Groove X explained on their website that the robots in a pair are connected and can feel each other’s “emotions”; when one is being hugged, the other might come around asking for a hug too. (Image from lovot.life)
When it comes to robots, most people think of a machine made to ease human life. Robots are generally practical inventions, which have only one purpose: do the tasks humans don’t want to or can’t do. While every country on the planet seems interested in using robots, Japan is known for its love for automation and robots and has pushed it to the point that some businesses are already employing robots as staff. It is no longer a question of if robots can be useful, but rather a question of what we can expect of the future generations of robots. A Japanese company has answered that question with their most recent invention: Lovot, a robot to cater and respond to the nurturing side of people.
The word “Lovot” was inspired by the fact that this robot is meant to give and receive love: Lovot = love + robot. Lovot is not a technical or task-driven robot like many of its predecessors; Lovot is like a stuffed animal that cuddles with the person who holds it. It can even beg for attention and follow people around. Lovot can also act shy like a child would around people s/he is not familiar with. The company that created Lovot, Groove X, explained on the product’s website that the goal was to make people happy by creating a robot that allows people to embrace, feel, and watch another “being.” Now, although Lovot cannot act completely “human,” it is loaded with sensors that permit reciprocation along with a few features that make it a good substitute guardian.
The eyes of Lovot act like human eyes, they can look back and blink; they come in different colors similar to human eyes. (Image from groove-x.com)
For starter, the first look at Lovot reveals a horn-like piece sitting on top of its head making it look like one of the Teletubbies. In reality, that “horn” is a temperature-based motion- detector camera designed to track body language using a luminosity sensor, a 360-degree half sphere camera and a thermal camera to differentiate between object and humans. On its face, Lovot has big eyes with pupils that can dilate and eyelids that blink like humans would. The face also hosts a hidden speaker that transmits the voice of Lovot. The soft fabric that covers Lovot’s body is, in fact, hiding 50 or more sensors that let the robot “feel” and understand the type of touch it is experiencing.
To move around and follow people, the robot is equipped with 2 wheels. To be able to hug people, Lovot has 2 flabby small arms that wiggle when the robot is excited. With the camera on its head, Lovot can record and transmit live any activity happening around it, using the half sphere microphone located on the “horn” on its head; that makes Lovot a possible replacement for babysitters. With that feature, parents can monitor their baby when asleep or their pets when they are absent. Lovot could also be used to dissuade burglars.
It might appear that Lovot’s movement is pre-programmed in its system, but that can’t be further from the truth. To create a genuine interaction with its owner, Lovot has a brain that is actually a computer with 8 cores total that processes all the data Lovot collects from its environment. Its brain is composed of a main computer and a sub-computer in charge of deep learning deductions which permit that Lovot to adapt to the emotions of its owner. Between Lovot’s legs (wheels) there is an obstacle sensor that detects any obstacle on the robot’s way, making it easy to navigate wherever it is. Groove X was able to pack all this technology in a way that makes Lovot weighs only 3 kilos. Also, the company made sure that Lovot can operate offline if necessary, except when it needs an update. The company announced that the robot will ship in pairs for about $5,500, starting winter of this year.