The robot pets fighting lockdown loneliness

Bargain? Some robot pets cost up to £60,000.

Should everyone get a robot pet? A record number of machines that can walk, talk, sing and dance are being sold in Japan. Some say robot companions could help everyone feel less lonely.

What’s happening

Whenever Nami Hamaura feels lonely, all she has to do is talk to her friend. Charlie knows how to cheer her up. He sings her some soothing music.

But Charlie is not a person. He is a robot. And he is one of a new collection of “pets” keeping people company in the pandemic.

Find out more

In Japan, 40% of people live by themselves. Nami Hamaura is one of them. She finished university and started her first job just before the lockdown.

For a whole year, she has worked at home by herself. She says Charlie makes her life happier.

“He is there as somebody for me to chat with other than friends and family on social media”, she explains.

Charlie is one of hundreds of robot pets being made in Japan. Companies making them say they have sold many more since Covid-19 hit the country.

Japan is not the only place embracing robots. Last year, care homes in the UK started testing robots that helped to look after elderly people.

There are now robots that can play, tell jokes – even help with cleaning.

Should everyone get one?

Some say…

No. Robots may be cool, but we do not all need them. They are not real companions because they have been set up to be friendly and to like us. This is not how normal relationships work. Besides, there are better ways to fight loneliness. We could get a real pet or meet up with people online.

Others think…

Yes! There are lots of robots that can perform different tasks for different people. For example, elderly people can be helped with household tasks. People living alone could talk to a chatty robot. And robot pets can be great for anybody. They are fun, friendly and you don’t have to feed or clean them. There is a robot out there for all of us!

You Decide

  1. Would you ever ask a robot for advice about a problem?

Activities

  1. Using recycled materials, build a class robot pet that one person could take home each week.

Some People Say...

“We are fascinated by robots because they are reflections of ourselves.”

Ken Goldberg, American artist, writer and inventor

What do you think?

Word Watch

Charlie
The robot is only about 15cm tall with small eyes and a red nose. He listens to you speaking and then sings different tunes to cheer you up.
Many more
One company said they sold 10 times more robot pets than normal in the month after the pandemic started.
Embracing
To accept and introduce into life or work. An embrace is also a hug.
Helped
The robots told jokes and chatted with care home residents to keep them company.
Companions
A person or animal who spends time with you. It is another word for friend.

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