The researchers stationed a 2-foot-tall robot called QRIO (pronounced “curio”), and developed by Sony, in a classroom of a dozen toddlers aged between 18 months and two years.
QRIO stayed in the middle of the room using its sensors to avoid bumping the kids or the walls. It was initially programmed to giggle when the kids touched its head, to occasionally sit down, and to lie down when its batteries died. A human operator could also make the robot turn its gaze towards a child or wave as they went away. “We expected that after a few hours, the magic was going to fade,” Movellan says. “That’s what has been found with earlier robots.” But, in fact, the kids warmed to the robot over several weeks, eventually interacting with QRIO in much the same way they did with other toddlers.
Eventually, the children seemed to care about the robot’s well being. They helped it up when it fell, and played “care-taking” games with it – most commonly, when QRIO’s batteries ran out of juice and it lay down, a toddler would come up and cover it with a blanket and say “night, night”.
Go on, admit it, that’s cute, right?