Creating lifestyles where robots and humans make emotional connections
aibo is an autonomous entertainment robot for the home, designed to grow as it is showered with love as a member of the family. As it interacts with people, aibo gains an understanding of them and takes part in a two-way communication of feelings with them. People naturally open their hearts to aibo's lovable behavior, which brings delight to the everyday lives of its owners.
Technology for being loved
aibo must be just like a dog-loved by humans and seeking to connect with them emotionally. We emphasized three elements toward that end: understanding of humans, decision-making based on that understanding, and lovable behavior. A great deal of sensing technology is deployed to enable aibo to understand humans by seeing through its eyes, hearing human voices, and recognizing when it is being stroked. aibo's decision-making develop from what it learns from day to day. For example, when aibo's owner asks aibo to put out its paw, and praises it for success or scolds it for bad timing, aibo's experiences are uploaded to the cloud to be processed through deep learning, and the results are downloaded as aibo sleeps. The lesson in this case is that this particular owner offers praise when aibo puts out its paw at a particular time. aibo learns, and the very next day starts behaving in a way more attuned to the owner.
The perception of being stroked is delivered through deep learning
aibo returns to its charging station on its own when its battery is running low. This requires aibo to learn the layout of the owner's home, and the knowledge to recognize its present location. This is accomplished by the camera on top of aibo's bottom, which creates maps by capturing images of the ceiling as aibo walks around. Because of this design, aibo can be picked up and carried to a different location without any problems. In addition, one AI-enabled function unique to aibo is the joy it expresses when its tummy is stroked. The design made it impossible to embed touch sensors in aibo's tummy, but we fervently wanted to equip aibo with this function, so we used different sensors in aibo's body. During the development phase, we repeatedly stroked aibo and processed the output of the touch sensors and gyro sensors via deep learning in order to make aibo understand that it is being stroked. This helps aibo form deep bonds with people.
Creating a future where robots and humans make emotional connections
There is a plan to send a crew of five or six astronauts to Mars in a spaceship, a journey that would require the crew to live in cramped quarters for hundreds of days. Huge fights might break out in environments like that; there was actual concern over that possibility. The crew was sequestered in a training facility in the desert of the United States for two weeks. We lent aibo to the facility, and they reported that the crew did not experience any friction or discord. We also lent aibo to a hospital. They had aibo live together with hospitalized children, and conducted a study to measure aibo's impact. We were deeply moved, as the nurse said that she had never seen the children smile so much before. People naturally open their hearts to aibo, and are able to empathize without focusing on the fact that aibo is a robot. We intend to continue our pursuit of those characteristics. The future we aim to create is a world of emotional connection-not opposition-between robots and humans.