This robot is here to stop you feeling lonely

Fribo is being developed for young people who live alone.

Press Association
Last updated: 13 April 2018 - 9.28am

Loneliness among young people is often blamed on the growing abundance of technology and social media, but a cat-like robot is being developed to tackle the social phenomenon.

Fribo, a social robot for young people who live alone, has been created by researchers at South Korea’s Yonsei University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, to connect users to each other.

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The minimalist gadget senses movements such as when its owner walks through the front door, uses the washing machine or opens their wardrobe door.

It then alerts other connected users in a network of friends to the owner’s activities, thereby simulating the company of a flatmate.

Fribo itself can hear, speak and even communicate through its eyes, but it does not move, and still believes in maintaining its owner’s privacy, despite its knowledge of his or her activity.

This is because the robot looks out for “living noise”, but does not record what it hears. It features an ultrasonic sensor which can detect when its owner is home.

When it senses activity, it alerts other users in your friend circle with messages such as: “Oho! Your friend turned the washer on. Did someone’s laundry get piled up?”

The message remains anonymous until the owner knocks something near the robot to reveal his or her identity.

Fribo was tested out between groups of three friends with an average age of 25. Some participants reported feeling more motivated to start the day at the same time as their friends, as well as feeling more socially connected.

Researchers are now looking to test out Fribo over one-year period, and between family groups.

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