Meet Moxie the robot: your new best friend

E-learning: Moxie teaches social skills such as kindness, friendship, empathy, and respect. © Embodied

Could a robot be a friend? A new machine designed to build social skills can listen to your stories, play games with you, and even understands when you are upset and need cheering up.

What’s happening

Riley sits on his bedroom floor after school with his new friend. They talk about his day before doing some colouring together. This may sound like a normal afternoon, but there’s one important difference: Riley’s friend, Moxie, is 40cm tall, blue, with a screen instead of a face. Moxie is a robot.

Find out more

Robots learn to do more each year. Some deliver parcels, some work in factories, and many people even have robot vacuum cleaners. This year, one company has created a robot that does more than basic tasks. The makers of Moxie hope its robot will act as a friend whilst teaching social and emotional skills.

Moxie’s backstory is that it has been sent on a mission to its new home to learn how to be a better friend. The robot has a realistic digital face that smiles, blinks, and talks. Artificial intelligence means Moxie can detect your moods. When it knows you are sad or scared, it holds your hand to make you feel better.

Similar companion robots are already used to talk to elderly people and combat loneliness.

Could a robot be a friend?

Some say…

Yes! Although they do not look like us, we can become very attached to robots. A machine that can talk to you, play games, make jokes, and spend time with you is just like a real friend. It can keep you company and stop you getting lonely. Moxie even encourages you to express yourself, listens to you, and gives you advice when you have problems.

Others think…

Not really. The problem with a robot is that it would be too nice. Real friends are honest. They tell us if we are wrong, and they tell the truth even if it’s not quite what we want to hear. If a robot said something nasty, we would simply switch it off. Human friends genuinely enjoy our company, while a robot friend is programmed to like us.

You Decide

  1. Will robots become so advanced that they can replace all jobs one day?

Activities

  1. Design your own companion robot and think about what it can do. Does it speak? What does it look like?

Some People Say...

“People are fascinated by robots because they’re machines that can mimic life.”

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot

What do you think?

Word Watch

Backstory
The makers of the robot give it a background life story that it tells its owner when it’s first switched on.
Artificial intelligence
When computer systems can perform tasks usually requiring human intelligence, often known as AI for short.
Companion robots
Robots designed to keep people company. Some copy human behaviour; others are like robotic dogs.
Combat loneliness
Studies show people like to have a robot around because it talks to them and keeps them company.
Programmed
A computer that is provided with coded instructions to behave in a particular way.

Subjects

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