Have you noticed little kids and the Roomba, the little robotic vacuum cleaner? My daughter loves the vacuum cleaner, calls it roomby affectionately, chases it and informs me if “he” has “eaten” anything that has caused “him” to stop. “Roomba!”, she will say with her hands on her hips “I have told you a million times not to eat wires!” she will say rolling her eyes. In case he gets entangled in something and is lost in one of the rooms, she will be really excited to go look for him. “I will find roomby Amma, I am good at finding him!”.
Now imagine if this Roomba looked cuter, could talk back intelligently and display emotions! What fun would that be!
Three alumni of IIT Mumbai have thought of just that. Experts in robotics, they have built Miko, India’s first companion robot.
IMC got a little demo of little Miko this January and we came away impressed.
Miko, one of the co-founders Chintan Raikar tells me, was built after extensive research into what parents and children want. While being engaging, educational (Miko can answer any question and dance 🙂 ), Miko also has a “moral center” and can display emotions like being sad when he loses a game or being happy to see you after a long time etc. Isn’t he cute?
When I asked the founder why did they name him Miko, co-founder Sneh Vaswani said they had to come up with a name that all members of the family could easily say, since in a multi-generational Indian family different members have different accents. A very thoughtfully made product indeed. Like Sneh put it – Made by Indians, for Indians.
Miko developed by a team at Emotix consists of roboticists, academicians, and neuropsychologists led by 3 IITians. It is the first consumer robot to come from India, one that can find a place in the family. Replacing screen time with a more active companion that can help a child play, learn and grow.
What About Privacy Concerns?
The team has taken care of data concerns and left data completely in the hands of parents.The data can be wiped clean by parents at any time if need be. A parental dashboard helps you track any “red-flag” questions and also set up customizations like getting Miko to talk to your child about eating vegetables or being kind or even respecting elders. The parent herself can set up certain types of queries to Miko to red-flag. Then the topic can be sensitively handled by the parent when notified.
Most of us have at some point given our child a smart phone or a tablet to keep them engaged. We have little one year olds who can “swipe to unlock”. The main problem with technology of any kind whether it be the TV screen or the smart phone screen is the passivity and lack of interaction that prevents the child from learning from the experience. We have seen kids turn into zombies in front of the TV. At the same time, we cannot raise our children in this day without even a little exposure to technology even if we voluntarily give up our smart phones.
What if this interaction could be replaced by Miko? A walking, talking emotionally smart robot that can be a companion to your child in the true sense? Worth exploring I would say.