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.

Essentially, Fribo listens to activity in your house and encourages you to talk to your friends while you perform regular tasks at home. Fribo’s 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. Its creators want to distribute Fribo to groups of friends and create a “virtual living space” that will help those who live and feel alone.

Fribo starts the connection by saying something seemingly innocuous like, “Your friend opened the front door. Did someone just come home?” If your friends are curious, they will be able to reply either by texting or knocking near their own Fribo, asking for details. Through these interactions, questions, and responses, Fribo 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.

While the tech in Fribo isn’t anything complex or revolutionary – Fribo runs on a Raspberry Pi computer with a small screen and a few basic sensors – it’s promise of alleviating loneliness is huge, especially for older people or those missing interpersonal connections transcending smartphone screens.

Testers who have used Fribo for a month have had plenty of good things to say about it. One user said, “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 gave it a sparkling review, stating, “[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.”

For users worried about the security and privacy features of Fribo due to reports on Alexa and Siri’s vulnerabilities, Fribo’s manufacturers reassured the public and said: “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 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction, but there’s no telling when it might officially launch.

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