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Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Alice your personal care robot

19 July 2016


Monday 18 July 2016, I saw another glimpse of our future. Dutch public TV broadcasted a 1.5 hour documentary on care robots: “I am Alice” (eg, international movie trailer, website). I strongly recommend watching this documentary or at least the 2 minute trailer. I must admit that I was skeptic about this specific development in robotics, which I had mentioned earlier in my blogs of 11 February 2016 (We don’t need you) and 17 February 2016 (What jobs are left for humans?). After watching I’m fully convinced about its future.

Each day we notice the importance of pets in people’s lives. Psychology Today has published 14 articles in a group called The Power of Pets. Having a pet clearly has a positive impact on our mental and physical health (eg, mutual caring, exercise).

Often we notice that people talk to their pets despite knowing that the pet will remain silent, apart from its non-verbal communication. Some caretakers seem convinced that their pets do understand them. Although I have no pets, I did see examples that indeed make you wonder how much a pet understands its caretaker.

Having pets requires independence (eg, housing, mobility). As of a certain age, independence will gradually diminish. One woman in the documentary said that losing her independence was the most difficult change to accept. I suppose that no longer having pets must also be hard to accept as pets provide (non-human) company. Missing human company was a recurring complaint.

Alice, the care robot, looks like a doll of about 60 centimetres. A humanoid is probably a better description.

Wiki: “A humanoid, from English human and -oid “resembling”, is something that has an appearance resembling a human being. The earliest recorded use of the term, in 1870, referred to indigenous peoples in areas colonized by Europeans”.

I think, feel and believe that these care robots will be treated and viewed as talking pets rather than talking robots. Care robots just need electric charging and a Wifi connection which makes them independent of their caretaker. In future, the care robot will provide company and will also increase the independence of its caretaker. One could even argue that the role between a future care robot and its care “taker” are almost the opposite compared to classic pets (eg, cat, dog).

Elderly immigrants are known to lose command over their second language and to fall back to their first (native) language which they learned as a child. Often their first language (eg, Dutch) is not really available in their new home country (eg, Australia). I already read about this problem many years ago (eg, Phys article 14 March 2007). Care robots would be able to talk in any language.

As usual, seeing is believing. This documentary showed me and proved to me that care robots do have a future. Alice is basically still a talking doll and/or pet. Future versions will be able to walk and also provide out-house company. I suppose humanoids will ultimately become our caretaker – or our digital butler as I already mentioned in my 20 February 2015 blog – and provide longer lasting independence.

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Here comes Alice (1989) – artistslyricsvideoWiki-1Wiki-2


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