(Phys.org) -- Japanese robot designer Hiroshi Ishiguro is fast becoming a sort of roboticist for the people, in Japan anyway. Instead of terminator style robots meant to do a lot of serious work or to serve on the battlefield, his robots are soft and cushy, cute and perhaps a little smooshy. He’s also created a robot in his own image. Now he’s introducing something he calls the Hugvie, a robot that looks sort of like a generic mono-legged human baby, or perhaps a doll with no eyes, fingers or toes. It serves as the medium through which people converse in a new way using a smartphone. While holding, or pressing the Hugvie against the face, it vibrates slightly at the same frequency as the voice on the other end, adding another degree of intimacy to the conversation. At least that’s the idea.
In reality, it’s a stuffed pillow with a little pocket for holding a cell phone. When in use, a hidden gadget listens in and converts the sounds it hears to vibrations which it sends through the pillow to the person holding it.
Ishiguro, an Osaka University professor, and inventor of the Telenoid R1, which has been described as an animated outsized fetus that talks, spoke at a press conference in Tokyo recently, to announce the debut of Hugvie. He said that the robot actually has two vibrators inside of it and that together they are meant to mimic the sound of the human heartbeat. He added that the vibrations can be customized to allow for softer or stronger pulses as they respond to the volume and strength of the voice on the other end of the line. He added that his team has already tested the Hugvie in several environments and that people, especially senior citizens, tend to hug the little pillow bot when speaking with someone close to them.
The idea behind the Hugvie is to add another dimension to the experience of speaking on the phone with someone in intimate ways; taking pillow talk to the next level if you will, providing that feeling of being there with that other person who really isn’t. The vibrations are meant to reproduce the sensations people would experience were they able to talk to one another with their faces, throats or chests touching, as people often do when lying down with one another while conversing.
Currently, the Hugvie is only available (in a variety of colors) to customers in Japan, but if interest spreads, as with any other consumer product, it will almost certainly be made available to customers elsewhere.
Via: DigInfo TV
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