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Robot baby head looking for a good caregiver

If a whole robot baby is too much for you, consider a robot baby head. Affetto, meant to aid in child development studies, is cute enough to be in the next Chucky film.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read

Affetto means 'affection' in Italian. Who couldn't love this little guy? Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

Japanese engineers have created yet another robot baby, because, you know, you can't have enough of a good thing.

Affetto is a tabletop baby head that's cute enough to be in the next Chucky film.

Developed by famed Japanese roboticist Minoru Asada, co-founder of the RoboCup tournament, as well as Hisashi Ishihara and Yuichiro Yoshikawa, Affetto follows such terrifying robo-babes as Kindy and Noby, Diego, and the infamous CB2.

Will the horror never end? Apparently not.

Scientists seem to have an insatiable desire to study baby development not by studying real babies, but by building robot babies. Designed to look like a 1- or 2-year-old child (minus the body), Affetto has realistic facial expressions and is meant to be treated as a human being by caregivers. It has lifelike eyes and can open its mouth.

You can see its inner workings in a video here, but it might keep you awake at night. Especially if you imagine that head attached to a long, snakelike body creeping toward your bed.

Affetto was designed to be more realistic than previous robot babies, to stimulate attachment in a caregiver, according to a research paper on the project from last fall.

Osaka University's Asada is involved with the JST Erato Asada Project, which seeks to unravel the secrets of human intelligence by building humanoid robots. Backed by the state-run Japan Science and Technology Agency, it links robotics with cognitive science to test hypotheses about intelligence.

As noble as those goals are, the robo-tots do tend to fall into the Uncanny Valley creep zone, in which design flaws in robots repulse human observers. Maybe if they were all designed like Smurfs or leprechauns they'd be a bit more lovable.

(Via GetRobo)