[Fribo] the robot is a research project in the form of an adorable unit that hears and speaks, but doesn’t move. Moving isn’t necessary for it to do its job, which is helping people who live alone feel more connected with their friends. What’s more interesting (and we daresay, unusual) is that it does this in a way that respects and maintains individuals’ feelings of privacy. To be a sort of “social connector and trigger” between friends where every interaction is optional and opt-in was the design intent behind [Fribo].
The device works by passively monitoring one’s home and understands things like the difference between opening the fridge and opening the front door; it can recognize speech but cannot record and explicitly does not have a memory of your activities. Whenever the robot hears something it recognizes, it will notify other units in a circle of friends. For example, [Fribo] may suddenly say “Oh, one of your friends just opened their refrigerator. I wonder what food they are going to have?” People know someone did something, but not who. From there, there are two entirely optional ways to interact further: knocking indicates curiosity, clapping indicates empathy, and doing either reveals your identity to the originator. All this can serve as an opportunity to connect in some way, or it can just help people feel more connected to others. The whole thing is best explained by the video embedded below, which shows several use cases.
In this day and age of treating people like data to be intrusively mined, it’s downright charming for a project’s vision to be something as simple and wholesome as being a reminder that there are others out there, sharing everyday activities. Of course, on the opposite end of [Fribo]’s minimalist visage is this robot that communicates entirely with animated gifs.
[Fribo] is a project by [Kwangmin Jeong], [Jihyun Sung], [Haesung Lee], [Aram Kim], [Hyem Kim], [Chanmi Park], [Youin Jeong], [JeeHang Lee], and [Jinwoo Kim] from Yonsei University in Korea.