Human Robots
Human Robots [Illustration by Shinod AP]
March 27: At one time we considered robots as machines to do our work. But now we have begun to think of them differently. We want them to be more human than humans themselves! Or else why would the Japanese have designed a new robot to help humans interact with each other?

One significant feature of most industrialised societies in the developed world is the breaking-up of the family and the rise of individualism.

So, either all the members of the family do not stay under one roof or even if they do, they do not feel very connected to each other. This is especially true of countries of the West or Far East such as Japan, which has one of the most technology-oriented societies.

In a situation where technology seems to have ready answers to most human problems, interaction among humans suffers. Family ties come under pressure.

It appears that the development is worrying the Japanese more than the others. Or perhaps they believe that technology can ‘fix’ anything. NEC Corp has developed a robot, PaRePo, that can listen, talk and even pass on messages. It is intended to help increase interaction in uncommunicative families.

PaRePo is the short form for Partner-type Personal Robot, reports The Times of India. It is an improved version of NEC’s R100 that they made in 1999. PaRePo is multi-coloured with a round head. It looks somewhat like R2D2 from the 1980s hit sci-fi film Star Wars.

NEC has also made it as human as it could. But how does it help increase the communication between family members? Here is how – PaRePo has the ability to convey video messages! PaRePo can not only recognise humans, it can also respond differently to different persons.

So if you bully it, it will run away from you. But if it likes you, it will dance! And that’s not all. The robot can project facial expressions formed by light emitting diodes.

This robot is nearly 40 cm high and can walk about on its own without crashing into the furniture. It is fitted with two digital cameras, four microphones and five sensors. It can also speak 3,000 phrases, recognise 650 phrases and has an Internet modem connection.

PaRePo is to be tested by 100 families so that it can improved further. But one cannot help wondering about the effect this robot will have on families, where family members already do not talk to each other. Would having an inanimate intermediary really make communication easier?