A team from Yonsei University in South Korea have developed this little robot, which helps to keep people company who live alone by updating them on what their friends are doing right at that moment.
In the abstract for their paper on the new piece of technology, they wrote: "The rapid increase in the number of young adults living alone gives rise to a demand for the resolution of social isolation problems. Social robot technologies play a substantial role for this purpose. However, existing technologies try to solve the problem only through one-to-one interaction with robots, which in turn fails to utilise the real-world social relationships. Privacy concern is an additional issue since most social robots rely on the visual information for the interactions.
"To this end, we propose 'Fribo', auditory information centered social robot that recognises user's activity by analysing occupants' living noise and shares the activity information with close friends. A four-week field study with the first prototype of Fribo confirms that activity sharing through the use of anonymized living noise promises a virtual cohabiting experience that triggers more frequent real-world social interactions with less feeling of privacy intrusion. Based on this finding and the further qualitative analysis, we suggest a design principle of sound-based social networking robots and its associated new interactions, then present the second prototype of Fribo inspired by the implications from the field study."
The robot was tested by various participants, who said it helped them feel less lonely despite them living alone.
One said: "The SN-Robot helped break the silence and emptiness I felt at home after work. It is a different experience from the TV because it gives information about my friends' activities. The robot seems like a living creature."
Whilst another added: "There is no big difference in people's lives, but since using the robot, we have so much to talk about and I do not feel alone. I usually don't contact my friends much, but as the robot keeps me interested in others, it encourages me to call my friends."