The reduction of face-to-face interaction has boosted anxiety problems in society and a market for robots providing substitutes for physical human contact.
“Healing robots,” such as the humanoid Lovot developed by Groove X Inc., Sony Corp.’s Aibo dog, and Qoobo, a furry cushion with a tail that moves in reaction to strokes by Yukai Engineering Inc., are seeing sharp sales rises.
Lovot and Aibo can gather data on the well-being of their owners and report it remotely, which is why some people are gifting them to their older parents living far away, refraining from visiting due to infection risks.
“Through healing robots, they confirm the actual existence of others, which is hard to feel on the telephone or through videoconferencing,” according to the company.
Lovot, a mascot robot with round eyes, has even found its way into kindergartens, to help young children affected by emotional stresses created by the pandemic.
With more than 50 sensors, it can recognize, approach and make eye contact with its owner. The sensors allow it to feel where its body is touched and avoid obstacles, light enough to pick up, with arms adjustable to a “hug mode” and a temperature similar to the human body, it can express jealousy — a first for a robot — when it is with another Lovot which is getting more attention.
With a 360-degree view camera, the robot can determine abnormalities and remotely report them when the owner is absent. It can also share with family members living elsewhere data such as how many times it has been touched, as an indication of the well-being of its owner. Despite price tag of ¥329,780 ($3,110) plus maintenance fees, sales rose 15-fold in September from the March, when Japan declared a state of emergency due to the virus.