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Lovot, Big Clapper Robots Spread Warmth, Cheer from Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Two Lovot machines are seen at the Lovot Museum in Chuo Ward, Tokyo.

These days, robots are being developed to take on tasks beyond their usual roles, like lifting heavy items and giving people information. Efficiency and convenience are no longer the sole purpose of these fascinating machines.

Groove X, Inc., a robot venture company based in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, has developed a family-type robot named Lovot whose sole purpose is to be loved.

Using sensors and cameras installed all over its body, the robot is able to recognize people’s faces, ways of touching and voices. And with the use of deep learning techniques via artificial intelligence, it even seems to emotionally grow in its knowledge of its owner and expresses its “feelings” with gestures and chirping, and autonomously decides which actions to take, like when to be friendly or sulk. Plus, its body temperature is kept at around 37 C using its own exhaust heat, so when you hold it, it feels like you are holding a living thing like a pet.

Courtesy of Groove X, Inc.
A Lovot is petted by students in their class on Oct. 21 in Kita Ward, Tokyo.

Oji Daini Elementary School in Kita Ward, Tokyo, introduced Lovot to its students from late June to early November. The aim was to help the children cope after the school was closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. It was also used in programming classes, and students were given the opportunity to program Lovot’s movements by themselves. “It’s more fun to come to school because we miss it,” one of the beaming 4th graders said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Big Clapper

Another robot that provides a bit of a cheerful lift is Big Clapper, whose main purpose is to cheer people on with applause and lift their spirits with a selection of positive words such as “Cheers!” or “Welcome.” The clapping robot, which uses a motion sensor to detect if someone is nearby, was developed by Bye Bye World Inc., a manufacturer in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo. It has several basic clapping rhythms that are quite realistic, which is sort of surprising coming from a simple figure that only sports a bright red face and arms.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Masato Takahashi assembles a prototype robot by hand in Shinagawa Ward.

Masato Takahashi, the 36-year-old CEO, has been developing applause robots since his school days. “Applause is a positive expression that can be understood all over the world and at all ages. I aimed to create a robot that will make people feel human-like warmth,” he said.

It seems the pandemic is truly altering the structure of our lives, with robots eventually helping us to become more human.