The Top 12 Social Companion Robots

What do you get if you combine the best features of a smartphone, a vacuum cleaner, and a pet? No, it’s not Dr. Frankenstein’s dog, but rather the new family members of the household of the future: social companion robots. They might do the chores, guard the house, teach the children and keep company to the elderly or people with health issues. Here are the current best examples on the market, but the best is yet to come.

Pepper

The humanoid robot of the height of a schoolchild makes eye contact, dances the lambada, cracks jokes or navigates through any exhibition hall. At Vivatech in May 2018, The Medical Futurist team met Pepper several times, and we were not surprised that the little social companion robot was introduced in two Belgian hospitals as receptionists already in 2016. It is perfect for that role.

It is able to recognize principal human emotions, respond appropriately to moods as well as questions. More than 140 SoftBank Mobile stores in Japan are using Pepper as a new way of welcoming, informing and amusing their customers.

SAM

Founded in 2013, Luvozo PBC has been focusing on developing solutions for improving quality of life for older adults and persons with disabilities. In July 2015, it started testing its flagship product — SAM, the robotic concierge — in a leading senior living community in the Washington D.C. area.

The human-sized, smiling robot combines the very best in cutting-edge technology and human touch to provide frequent check-ins and non-medical care for residents in long-term care settings. By doing so, it reduces the costs of care, while raises patient satisfaction index by merely being there for the elderly all the time.

Lynx

You have to travel abroad but want to give a hug to your daughter and be there when she performs at the school play? Just ask your Lynx robot produced by the Chinese robotics company, Ubtech, to do it for you!

Through the Avatar Mode in the Lynx app, the doll-sized robot is able to see, hear and speak for you or wave hi, dance or hug. With its touch sensors, the mechanic creature responds to human touch and detects motion or light. Combined with its video recording feature and surveillance mode, it is a viable option for home security. Moreover, users can sync it with Amazon Alexa, so Lynx can perform its commands: play music, search show times, check traffic, weather or news reports.

Buddy

The wide-eyed, flat-faced French robot has already been in high society having met and trolled French President Emmanuel Macron at last year’s Vivatech. However, the creature is set to rather become the newest family member in every household. Its features allow it to protect the home, offer assistance in the kitchen, act as a personal assistant by reminding family members of important dates as well as a playmate for children.

As an emotional robot, it promises to express various emotions throughout the day. It might cheerfully welcome you when you come home from work, but might be grumpy if you don’t spend much time with it.

Professor Einstein

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to learn about science or maths from Einstein himself? Hanson Robotics offers you that – or something similar, apparently. The little robot, which looks as if it came right from Sesame Street, can smile, frown and even stick his tongue out just as the father of modern physics did.

If you connect Professor Einstein to your tablet or smartphone, it will even play brain games and teaches you science. Moreover, it promises to chitchat with you about the weather as well as famous people. I’m wondering what it has to say about Taylor Swift or the Kardashians, but anyhow, it seems to be a fun way to explore science for kids.

Cognitoys

New York-based Elemental Path develops Cognitoys, dinosaur-shaped toys kids can have a discussion with. It teaches them how to count, how to create stories together, remember colors and more. They can sing or play games, and they also have amazingly bad word-wits.

In the future, toys that use artificial intelligence will become friends with kids. It must be frightening to some parents now, but children will have real as well as A.I. friends within a couple of years. If for the first time, you have a conversation with an A.I. driven toy, you will understand how hard it is to distinguish between real and artificial personalities.

Miko

The tiny, wheel-powered robot is the Indian response to the robotic revolution started in the Western part of the world. It is the first companion robot developed by a Mumbai-based startup Emotix. Miko is aimed at children above the age of five years. Similar to the smart dinosaur of Cognitoys, it is also artificial intelligence-based growing and changing together with your kid. It can talk, respond, educate and entertain. It understands the specific needs and emotions of your child and reacts accordingly.

However, it seems to have the massive downside of running up only for 3 hours on a single charge. That might be less than enough for a little kid perpetually in motion. By all means, we would gladly test and review it personally!

PARO

It is a well-known fact that pets and cute animals help to ease stress; to divert attention from pain and to reduce the feeling of loneliness. Unfortunately, not every hospital or extended care facility allows animals to live next to patients.

That’s where leading Japanese industrial automation pioneer, AIST comes into the picture. It developed PARO, an advanced interactive robot. It allows the documented benefits of animal therapy to be administered to patients in medical environments. For it has the shape of a baby harp seal covered with soft artificial fur to make people feel comfortable as if they are touching a real animal. This therapeutic robot reduces the stress factor experienced both by patients and by their caregivers – and apparently, by astronauts inside a shuttle or a space station.

Vortex

DFRobot, a leading robotics and open source hardware provider empowering the Maker Movement and having an eye on STEM education, takes the learning-by-doing method seriously.

It designed a programmable robot for kids. The smart and responsive little creature is shaped like a huge white bug that children can program and play robot soccer or virtual golf with. Moreover, they can use it as a music player or a vacuum cleaner as well. Mom will be glad to know that kids are not only playing but learning about robotics, creating their own versions, and doing some chores with their newest robotic toy. It’s a pure win-win situation.

Jibo

Each year, TIME magazine’s technology editors curate a list of the year’s “best inventions that are making the world better, smarter and—in some cases—a little more fun.” In 2017, the cute, tiny and definitely fun Jibo robot made the cover.

The artificial intelligence-powered helper not only answers questions, but makes smart homes even smarter turning the lights on and off, or connecting to other home automation devices. Moreover, it is able to learn up to 16 different people with advanced facial and voice recognition technology – so Jibo is able to create genuinely personalized experiences. And every now and then, it will also crack a joke. We cannot wait to try one!

ROBEAR

Next time your grandpa says that a giant bear lifted him out of the hospital bed, believe him, it could definitely happen! Scientists from RIKEN and Sumitomo Riko Company Limited have developed a new experimental nursing care robot, ROBEAR, which is capable of performing tasks such as lifting a patient from a bed into a wheelchair or providing assistance to a patient who is able to stand up but requires help to do so.

These robots shaped like a giant, gentle bear with a cartoonish head not only promise to make up for the shortage of carers but to save human personnel from having to carry out strenuous tasks, such as lifting patients out of bed 40 times a day.

AV1

A Norwegian start-up, No Isolation developed a small telepresence robot, AV1 for children suffering from long-term illness to reduce their loneliness. The friendly robot makes it possible for kids to participate in school and the daily life of the class. AV1 was introduced in Norway in 2016 and is currently in use in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK. Later on, No Isolation plans to go on the German, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish as well as the North American market.