Machines

Are You Lonely? Fribo The Robot Can Help

Fribo is the cutest robot we’ve seen in ages and has the best job in the world! The robot was created to help lonely people connect with their friends by monitoring their activity.

Its creators want to distribute Fribos to groups of friends’ houses and create a “virtual living space” that will help those who live and feel alone.

Essentially, Fribo listens to activity in your house and encourages you to talk to your friends while you perform regular house maintenance. A Fribo microphone and sensors will recognize if you turn on lights, use your washing machine or open the fridge. The cute robot will then share that info anonymously with the rest of your group, notifying it of your activities.

“Your friend opened the front door. Did someone just come home?”, will say Fribo. Then, your buddies will be able to reply either by texting or knocking near their own Fribo, asking for details. It basically builds a social media news feed, using small moments from your actual home life, in the hopes that it will alleviate some of the isolation and foster better relationships.

The tech itself is nothing to write home about – the Fribo runs on a Raspberry Pi, has a small screen and a few basic sensors. Its promise is huge though, especially for older people or those missing human connections beyond smartphone screens.

The testers who tried Fribo for a month had a lot of good things to say about it.

“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,” said one of the Fribo owners.

“[Fribo] helped break the silence and emptiness I felt at home after work. It is a different experience from the TV because it gives information about my friends’ activities. The robot seems like a living creature,” revealed another.

As far as privacy goes, especially since Alexa is viewed by some people as “threatening”, Fribo’s makers had to say…

“Users can control the amount of information shared by setting up the robot middleman, thereby controlling one’s tiredness and loneliness experienced from the relationship. The second advantage is filtering out unnecessary information that one does not want to share. The private activity information such as bathroom related activities and phone conversation is a factor that lowers the positive effect of co-residence. As a middleman, the robot selectively recognizes activities, thereby eliminating the disadvantages of co-residence.”

Fribo The Robot’s prototype debuted at last month’s ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction, but there’s no telling when it might launch for a mainstream audience.

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