These robots appear to have been produced with research from Prof Kerstin Dautehahn and her team at The Adaptive Systems Research Group (University of Herts) in collaboration with Fraunhofer IPA. To their credit they seem to be heading towards a commercially available open source product rather than hiding behind the usual robotics idiom of ‘new research platform – apply here’ – (on further reading this is debatable!). I kind of like Care-O-Bot 3’s ‘technomorphic’ shape, despite its size but they’re clearly avoiding the humanoid issues and interaction seems pretty good. Some of the elderly adults in the video also appeared to like it so it definitely looks good on more than a few critical areas of HRI and robotic innovation.
I particularly like these robots roles as care assistants rather than care worker replacements so somewhat ethically sound too. It is however, not particularly companionable and clearly not designed as such, which conveniently stimulates a discussion regarding the shaping of robots for differing roles. A socially equipped, anti-anthropomorphic service robot like Care-O-Bot 3 looks functional so it does functional tasks (but not upstairs?), a social companion robot like Paro elicits emotional/haptic responses creating emotional attachments. So are there domestic spaces for both, certainly looks like it, particularly if they can communicate simultaneously with us and each other?