The nightmare of robot babies continues apace in Japan, a rapidly aging society where human babies are going out of style. Babyloid is the latest cyber-tot to spring from the minds of engineers with little apparent regard for how scary their progeny are.
Creator Masayoshi Kano of Nagoya's Chukyo University and Ifbot fame has been showing off Babyloid, developed two years ago, in presentations sponsored by the local government. He recently explained the robot in a talk at the Artificial Intelligence Research Promotion Foundation.
Inspired by a baby beluga whale, Babyloid is designed to be a therapeutic robot for depressed seniors, similar to Takanori Shibata's robot seal Paro. Studies have suggested that caring for dolls can improve the lives of adults suffering from dementia.
Kano's baby is 17 inches long and weighs about 4.8 pounds. It can only move its arms, head, mouth, and eyelids and make little robot baby sounds. LEDs on its face can mimic emotions such as sadness. It has microphones, and optical and pyroelectric sensors to detect people.
Babyloid is still a prototype but has been used in a small trial with elderly people in an intensive-care nursing home. Five subjects were evaluated on how they accepted and maintained interest in the machine, and apparently results were positive. Kano apparently wants to sell the robot for roughly $600.
Along with Affetto, CB2, Yotaro, and Kindy and Noby, Babyloid reflects Japan's love of making robot babies instead of human babies; the population peaked in 2004 and will contract by about a quarter by mid-century.
Of course, Babyloid will have grown up by then and had kids of its own.