ONE! PERSONAL SPACE! TWO! PERSONAL SPACE! THREE! YOU GET THAT RIGHT, PERSONAL SPACE!
Has it ever occurred to you during a party how perfect the event would be if you just crawl back to your personal space where you can interact to the world with just a vid-screen that turns people into anime avatars? No?
What if I tell you there's a literal box for that?
Researchers from the Gifu University in Japan have built what they call a “mobile personal space” bot to help reduce social anxiety arising from talking/interacting to people. According to the researchers, the bot consists of four tall black walls with wheels that can fit a person inside it. There, you can talk to somebody from the "outside world" while maintaining healthy distance. And with its attached computer vision, the robot can walk with the person by just spinning those wheels.
The screens and cameras are mounted on the inside and out of the bot, letting the person inside see who they’re talking to (but since this is still a prototype, there is still no screen outside of the box). What's more is that the screen inside won't show you the actual footage outside. Instead, the screen displays an anime avatar of the person talking outside the box. It’s like having Skype with an anime character!
This is expected to specifically aid in reducing social anxiety related to maintaining eye contact. Many people have tried using the robot, as it's displayed at the 2017 IROS conference for robotics in Vancouver, Canada. Unfortunately, “not good” is the general response of the public as they said to feel claustrophobic and afraid of the person they were talking to.
It's still a long way to go before we can reach the point of having our tangible but safe personal space. And maybe looking like an idiot walking around in a large black box is a good start. Still no? Fine.
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