Yotaro the crying baby-bot teaches parenting skills

As crying is obviously a big part of infancy, warm water comes out of a small opening in the interactive screen that doubles as baby sim Yotaro's touch-sensitive face.

Yotaro
"Please, Mommy, tell me this baby is going back to the hospital!" University of Tsukuba

We've written about creepy robot children before, but none as lachrymose as Yotaro, an interactive baby-bot that actually sheds tears when tired.

Yotaro
"No Tommy, real babies don't come with electronic parts." University of Tsukuba

Created in the Uchiyama Lab at Japan's University of Tsukuba, Yotaro is meant to be a baby simulator for teaching new parents and about-to-be-older-siblings the ways of babyhood. As crying is obviously a big part of infancy, warm water comes out of a small opening in the interactive screen that doubles as Yotaro's touch-sensitive face.

Yotaro, just a concept for now, is not a standalone robot, as a rather extensive set of devices must be attached for it to perform its baby-like functions.

The computer controlling Yotaro's changing facial expressions is external, the water that serves as the tired-baby tears is stored in a separate tank, and sensors direct Yotaro's "emotional" responses (tickling Yotaro's belly, for example, results in it wiggling its motorized legs under the blanket). A projector under the bed projects the appropriate countenance upward onto Yotaro's 2D face, while a speaker offers up the right baby sounds.

All that hardware kind of makes you long for the old-fashioned mannequin baby, doesn't it?

Thanks to designboom for bringing Yotaro to our attention and to my erai CNET colleague Takayuki Sakurai for translating the Japanese on the University of Tsukuba Web site. Now please excuse us while we go cry some very real adult tears.

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.

 

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