Family

This cute robot bunny wants to look after your gran

By Kitty Knowles 26 May 2017
Summary

MiRo monitors her wellness, reminds her to take her pills, and can even assist in an emergency.

Is your nan lonely?

It breaks our heart to think about it, but over half of all people aged 75 and over live alone – this can have a huge negative impact on both their mental and physical health.

Now one company, Consequential Robotics, is developing a product that can help:

A robot bunny rabbit to keep your gran company.

Hello MiRo

First thing’s first, MiRo (a ‘BioMimetic Robot’) – isn’t technically a ‘bunny’, but it does have some bunny-ish parts. Its creators were inspired by both prey and predators, and it’s ended up looking something between a rabbit and a puppy.

“We have made it small and non-humanoid to keep it affordable and manage expectations,” explains designer Sebastian Conran.

“It has wheels because legs use about 30 times as much energy and are prone to failure.”

Of course, MiRo’s also designed to emotionally engage its owners, by looking and being adorable.

“The ideal perception of personality is maybe something between a puppy and Radio 4,” says Conran.

“Being cute or ‘kawaii’ was a key part of the brief.”

Why create a bunny bot?

The core reason is to provide companionship, says Cohen.

“Loneliness and depression are key reasons that people lose their independence in later life,” he explains. “MiRo is [about] providing companionship and amusement in the same way a pet will.”

But the cute little bot is practical too: it can self-navigate around the home, observing, hearing and reacting to human touch.

“Some of the features such as facial and situational recognition and voice commands can be linked up to a powerful secure home hub,” says Conran.

It can monitor wellness, remind one to take pills, or call for help in emergencies – and lets carers and family members understand how relatives feel between visits.

The future

MiRo has come a long way since it was conceived by Conran’s studio, Sebastian Conran Associates, with help from robotics experts at the University of Sheffield.

At present it is still a developer platform, which needs behaviours and skills written for it – “a bit like a laptop with Windows but no programs such as Word or Excel,” says Cohen.

As soon as next year, Conran plans to have two versions of MiRo available: a consumer version that will link to devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home, and a ‘Pro’ version suitable for care professionals working with vulnerable people.

“In 20 years I will be 81, and I will want to live in my own home and be able to look after myself and not be a burden on my children or anyone else,” says Conran.

“We are aiming to use emerging & resilient technologies designed specifically for the needs of later life.”

Who knew resilient technology could be so smart – or so cute?