Are your phone calls feeling a little cold and distant? Japanese robotic engineers are currently displaying a new soft, cuddly robot dubbed Hugvie that is designed to give users a feeling of interaction and touch when chatting on the phone to friends and family.
The Hugvie is a pillow-like robot shaped in a minimal, genderless human form and featuring a pocket to hold your mobile phone. The device includes a microcontroller and vibrators that are designed to match the characteristics of the caller's voice, "so people can have a richer communication experience when talking on the phone with loved ones," according to a report on DigInfo. The vibrators pulse at the same rate as a human heartbeat, and the vibrations will speed up or slow down based on the tone of the caller's voice.
The brainchild of Japan's Osaka University and Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, the Hugvie is on display at the H. Ishiguro Design Show in Akihabara until May 27 and sells for JPY 3,990/about $60 USD.
For fans of robotic hugs, Samsung partnered with robotics company RT Corporation last Christmas to create a robot called Galaxy XMAS HUGS, and nicknamed "Hug-chan," complete with air-cushioned robot arms outstretched and ready to embrace you.
Creating robots to meet emotional needs, particularly those of the country's growing elderly population, is a hot trend in Japan. One robot comes in the shape of a teddy bear that can read facial expressions and respond to them. The Fujitsu device includes a camera in the nose of the bear that can detect human faces and movement, such as waving of hands, while sensors inside its head and limbs can detect touches and caresses.
Another cuddly Japanese invention is the robotic baby seal Paro, which coos and flaps its flippers to ease loneliness among the elderly and prevent depression and even dementia, according to its developers.
Watch a video demo of the Hugvie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJXkL7bcQR0