Kids cuddle up to Sony robot

15th Nov 2007 | 00:00

Kids cuddle up to Sony robot

Study paves way for robot teachers

He stands 2 feet tall, weighs 16 pounds and likes a blanket when he feels sleepy. But this is no ordinary toddler. He's Sony's QRIO biped robot and he's been taking part in an extraordinary study into human-robot relations.

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego have been using QRIO with toddlers to see how they react to having a robot in their midst. That's nothing new - scientists have been trying this for years - only this time the kids reacted positively to QRIO and quickly adopted him as one of their own.

One of the boys

The toddlers aged 18 months to 2 years can be seen touching QRIO on his arms and legs (a positive sign off affection), cuddling him and helping him to stand up. Some of the dozen or so kids in the classroom where QRIO was based even covered him up with a blanket when he lay down - something QRIO was programmed to do whenever his batteries got low.

The toddlers didn't show the same affection to an inanimate control robot called Robby - they treated it roughly, more like a toy.

""The study shows that current technology is very close to being able to produce robots able to bond with toddlers, at least over long periods of time," the University of California's Javier Movellan told New Scientist.

This could eventually lead to robots being used as classroom assistants or to work with autistic children

Sony pensioned off QRIO (short for Quest for CuRIOsity) in January 2006, when it killed development on its range of entertainment robots. QRIO also famously starred in Beck's promo video for Hell Yes.

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