For years they have been saying that in the future there will be robots that can do pretty much everything for us, (I’m still waiting for the Mary Poppinsbot) but the last thing I expected some tech-genius to invent a robot for, would be to simulate human contact in a person’s final moments on earth?!!? Ermmmm, yes, this is more than a little bit WTF?
Well, strange (and disturbing) as it may sound, a robot that strokes a dying person’s arm and speaks to them as they draw their final breath has been invented. The entrepreneurial Dan Chen created the robot, as part of a series of machines that are intended to reenact human social behaviors. Chen has studied this subject intensively and is fascinated by what he calls ‘robotic intimacy technology’ (RIT). Among Chen’s other RIT inventions are a robot that dishes out hugs to anyone or anything close enough, a purring machine and ‘Okay Therapist’ which is a small box that offers customized words of comfort during difficult times…Now I reckon one of those could be pretty useful, although I’d probably end up having a row with mine if I got one!!
The idea of the ‘Last Moment Robot’ is really quite depressing and the majority of you reading this will react like I did, horrified at the thought of someone having to spend their last moments with just a robot for company. However, tragic as it may sound, you’ve got to look at it and think – well at least a robot is better than nothing, isn’t it?
Unfortunately some people do die alone and if this can offer them even the slightest bit of comfort it can only be a good thing! I’m not entirely sure if it would be something that everyone would opt for, but I’m sure it would make a difference to certain people!
Chen said of the Last Moment Robot “The device is meant to raise questions…The process of dying is probably the most vulnerable moment of a human life, where one seeks the assurance of human connection. In this installation, human presence is replaced with a robot, questioning the quality of intimacy without humanity.”
It was inspired by Paro the robotic baby seal that has been used to comfort the elderly and sick in Japan’s nursing homes. It was also used to help comfort the victims of the tragic tsunami and earthquake that struck Japan last year causing widespread destruction and devastation.
Chen introduced his robot to the public in an event almost as weird as his invention, he created a ‘Last Moment Hospital’ at a recent RISD show and at the Brown University Science Center.
As part of the installation people could pretend to be someone who was just about to die and be reassured by the robot. They would lie in their hospital bed getting stroked by the padded arm of the robot whilst listening to its voice telling them that aren’t alone, that the Last Moment Robot is there to comfort them!
I can totally understand why Chen would want to showpiece his Robot on a platform like this, but who in the hell goes to something like that!! I mean, why would you want to pretend to have your last moments on earth? Bizarre…
Watching the ‘Last Moment’ experienced by the woman in this video was more than a little bit creepy, although her smirk did lighten the mood a little!
However, I definitely will not be queuing up to try that out any time in the near future and I think Chen needs to do something about the robot’s voice, make it sound a little less Bladerunner perhaps?