Top 10 intelligent robots that improve people’s emotional and social wellbeing

Due to numerous benefits, social robots are quickly gaining popularity worldwide, helping with loneliness, autism, and customer service.

  • Kiki is a desktop robot with a unique personality
  • Liku, a machine that will “become a being for you”
  • PLEN Cube can even care for its owners’ social media accounts
  • LOVOT is a Japanese solution to loneliness
  • Sony’s Aibo can be its owner’s best friend
  • Robotic pets calm those suffering from dementia
  • Leka makes living with autism easier
  • Temi is a home assistant with superb video call features
  • Toyota’s robot will deliver meals and clean rooms
  • Furhat is a robot with multiple personalities
  • Humans will benefit from the advancement of robotics

Demographic changes are set to be one of the driving forces of the 21st century. Population ageing, labour shortages, and the epidemic of loneliness affect millions of people and damage their mental and physical health. Companies are affected, too, as they look for ways to grow amidst a talent shortage. Tackling these challenges will require substantial efforts, but some companies have already come up with innovative solutions such as intelligent robots.

 The global social robots market is set to reach $699.18 million by 2023, up from $288.23 million in 2017
A horizontal bar graph showing the value of the global social robots market in 2017 and its forecasted value in 2023.

These personal assistants provide people with emotional support, ease everyday tasks, connect distant family members, and could even be used in various professional roles. And they’re becoming popular, too. By 2023, the social robot market will reach nearly $700 million, demonstrating that the age of robots is well upon us as entrepreneurs produce ever more impressive machines.

Kiki is a desktop robot with a unique personality

Zoetic AI’s Kiki is one of the more sophisticated robotic companions. The device can turn its torso around to see what’s happening in the room or shake its head back and forth as music plays. It can’t move away from the desk, though, due to a lack of wheels. Kiki sees the world through a camera placed in its nose and hears users with a quartet of microphones. Its eyes are shown on a display screen and express a range of emotions like joy, fear, anger, or surprise. And the robot will even develop a distinct ‘personality’ depending on the way people treat it.

If Kiki is treated with love in the first few weeks, it will develop into an outgoing and inquisitive robot. But fewer affectionate interactions might tell the algorithm that the owner prefers to have a catlike and aloof companion. The robot can also recognise its owner. That doesn’t guarantee that it will always react positively to petting, though, as Kiki can feel overwhelmed and ask for some personal space. And the company saves all the interactions that make up the pet’s personality. If the robot is ever lost, the owner can download the file and install it in a new device.

Liku, a machine that will “become a being for you”

Liku is another AI-powered companion that makes people happy. Built by the Korean robotics company Torooc, the device uses a camera in the forehead to recognise its owner’s mood. Also, two round LCD screens act as eyes that show whether the robot feels pleasant, unpleasant, alarmed, sad, or sleepy. And thanks to AI, Liku is highly adaptive, too. It adjusts to the owner’s personality and will “become a being for you”, the company says. On top of that, the robot can follow voice commands, dance along to music, and even pose for a selfie. And although it’s still not available for sale, an impressive list of features will help Torooc to fulfil its mission of putting a robot in every home.

PLEN Cube can even care for its owners’ social media accounts

PLEN Cube might not have charming eyes like Liku and Kiki, but this AI-powered robot is equally impressive. It boasts a range of the latest technologies, such as voice recognition, face-tracking, and facial recognition that integrate with a number of hardware components, including a full-HD camera, a display, a microphone array, and speakers. The robot behaves intuitively and turns towards the person who’s speaking and shakes its head after waking up. It even dances to music. The owner can use voice commands to check the weather forecast, stream music, update their schedule, set reminders, take pictures, and more. And if the picture is good, PLEN Cube can even post it on social media.

LOVOT is a Japanese solution to loneliness

Japan is well-known for its love of robots and its tech-savvy population. But 18.4 million adults in the Land of the Rising Sun also happen to be increasingly lonely, relying on machines to fulfil emotional needs. It’s a trend that many companies are willing to take advantage of. The Tokyo-based tech firm Groove X, for instance, developed an award-winning robot called LOVOT. Marketed as a device “that stirs your instinct to love”, the robot’s only mission is to make users happy. Powered by 50 surface sensors, LOVOT becomes warm when hugged and comes near the door when the owner comes home late.

Furthermore, it remembers the faces of individuals who take care of it. If a group of people call the robot’s name at the same time, it will go to the person that has been the most affectionate towards it. The robot can also take pictures of people who visit the home and send them to the owner. And LOVOT’s interaction history can be viewed through a smartphone app, which is a useful feature for people who want an easy way to check in on distant elders they take care of.

Sony’s Aibo can be its owner’s best friend

Japan’s tech giant Sony also builds social robots. Its latest version of Aibo, a dog-like robot, comes with a number of advanced features. The robot uses a front-facing camera to map out the space ahead and has Wi-Fi and LTE connectivity that enables it to operate inside and outside of the home. Two OLED displays serve as eyes, while four microphones detect voice commands. And although it’s currently available only to customers in the US and Japan, the company plans to sell the product worldwide in the future.

Aibo can be used in several different ways. It can bark and play with balls and bones, as well as record what’s happening at home and transfer images and videos to the owner. Sony is already developing the Aibo Patrol service based on these recording capabilities. And for elders who can’t keep up with a real dog, Aibo offers a more convenient alternative that requires no feeding, walking, or cleaning. Sony’s robot might even provide real dogs with company while their owners are away.

Robotic pets calm those suffering from dementia

Robotic devices can provide joy to people with dementia who suffer from unintended nervousness and aggression. All Companion Pets, developed by the toy manufacturer Ageless Innovation, are a perfect solution for adult dog and cat lovers. These robotic animals have built-in sensors, brushable fur, and mimic real breeds, providing an authentic pet experience. If owners touch them on their belly or back side, the cats will purr. And a golden retriever puppy will bark if it’s happy or sad. Both robotic companions can also close their eyes, lift their paws, and move their head and body.

Leka makes living with autism easier

Parents and therapists can even use robots to help children cope with the autism spectrum disorder. For instance, Leka, a wide-eyed robotic toy with a sweet face teaches children how to perform simple tasks like getting dressed or playing with friends in a fun way. Also, it improves their autonomy and emotional intelligence, which are skills that autistic children typically lack. And parents and therapists can track their progress via a smartphone app. An additional benefit of Leka is that it reduces learning inequalities and enables children to keep up with their peers and not fall behind in their education.

Temi is a home assistant with superb video call features

Temi is a powerful robot that acts as a video-oriented personal assistant. Run by AI, the machine boasts a 10-inch screen that enables users to watch media, stream music, control smart home devices, check on the weather, order food, and many other things in a hands-free way. Temi is also great at navigating the house and avoiding obstacles. It can memorise places and follow the owner through different rooms, enabling enjoyable video calls without forcing users to remain in a single spot. The robot allows remote control, too. Owners can access Temi and navigate it remotely to check in on children or the elderly and initiate video and audio calls. And thanks to AI technology, the machine responds to voice commands and has facial recognition capabilities.

Toyota’s robot will deliver meals and clean rooms

The Japanese car maker Toyota also wants to break into the robotics market. The company has teamed up with the AI startup Preferred Networks to improve the existing Human Support Robot (HSR) that helps people with everyday tasks. The machine consists of wheels, a retractable arm, a video screen on top, and two camera eyes. And although HSR can only lift a 1.2 kg payload, it has many other impressive capabilities.

Thanks to Preferred Networks’ algorithms, the robot is able to learn where books and pens belong on a shelf and clean a room. Also, it arranges clothing neatly on the floor. It’s still not clear when the machine will be available to consumers, although Toyota’s former manager in the robot program, Masanori Sugiyama, claims that the HSR will be ready for care centres and hospitals in two to three years. Initially, it will perform tasks like delivering meals or tidying up, but as the AI becomes more sophisticated so will the robot’s capabilities.

Furhat is a robot with multiple personalities

The Stockholm-based tech startup Furhat Robotics took a slightly different approach to building robots. Its machine, called Furhat, is not designed for socialising at home, but for performing different workplace roles. Due to a projection system that displays a customisable face on a head-shaped display, the robot changes faces and the voice it uses, playing different characters with unique personalities. Customers who purchase Furhat can develop new characters. And instead of the sweet, but clearly robotic appearances of other social robots, this Swedish robot attempts to mimic humans and engage in natural conversation.

But it isn’t meant to replace humans. The company’s CEO, Samer Al Moubayed, says that Furhat is “an answer to the absence of robots”, and many businesses have noticed the potential of this technology. The pharmaceutical firm Merck, for instance, plans on using the robot as a rehabilitation tool for multiple sclerosis patients, the accounting giant KPMG is training Furhat to give financial advice, while the Japanese car maker Honda thinks that robots can help older people interact with smart home technologies. Staff training is another area where machines can be useful. The Dutch Rabobank uses robots to train employees on how to have difficult conversations, such as turning down loan applicants.

Humans will benefit from the advancement of robotics

The robotics industry has progressed dramatically in the last decade, as the advance of AI, sensor, and camera technologies provided machines with a digital ‘soul’. Far from being used solely in industrial settings, robots are now increasingly able to interact with humans, stir their emotions, and help with everyday tasks. Individual users and companies are both benefiting from this tech progress. And far from taking over the world, intelligent machines are actually augmenting people’s capabilities and becoming their trusted companions.

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This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

Trendwatcher, futurist and international keynote speaker Richard van Hooijdonk takes you to an inspiring future that will dramatically change the way we live, work and do business.

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