Furry bot could be the Tribble we've been waiting for

It's called a "haptic creature." I'm going to call it ridiculously cute, though that's not the sole purpose of this touch sensitive mat of fur. The highly wired piezoelectric sheath beneath the fur helps the creature dubbed a "Cuddlebot" respond to various kinds of touch commands to purr and vibrate.

Of course you can't help but be reminded of the Tribbles that invaded the U.S.S. Enterprise rendering the crew stunned by their cuteness.

The Cuddlebot is the latest prototype from the Sensory Perception and Interaction Research Group (SPIN) lab ant the University of British Columbia. The touch sensitive fuzz-ball robot can differentiate between nine different touch gestures - from stroking to scratching and it can even differentiate between who is touching it.

It's creator, Anna Flagg proved the inanimate Cuddlebot could differentiate between users and her next goal is to see whether it can eventually infer emotion behind the gestures.

While we may already be emotionally touched by its appearance, Flagg's purpose it to go deeper with the emotional connection. She's already successfully tested it as a therapeutic companion with sick children, but the possibilities are even more vast.

Connect the Cuddlebot with a phone and perhaps tactile emotions could be sent and received over distances. Flagg's collaborator Karen MacLean even hopes that portable Cuddlebots could be used as stress detectors in adults. While her example of the bot being linked with a person's phone and used to filter out alerts and the like, I think use as a stress relief will would go beyond just being a tool connected to your phone.

Carrying one of these ultra sensitive devices around to interact with, and be rewarded with softness and purring is like having a portable dog or cat. I could easily see myself giving my own personal Cuddlebot a spot on my desk and giving it tickle or two (or ten) during a nutty day at work and becoming a more sane person to be around.

If the SPIN team added even more sound, I suspect many of us would be lost under its spell and you'd have to pry it from my cold dead hands one day.

Flagg showed Cuddlebot at the IEEE Haptics Symposium in spring last year, and is preparing to demo it at conferences in Barcelona and Tokyo in the near future.

Meanwhile, I'll be cruising the SPIN website waiting for the day I can make one these Tribble/portable pet/Cuddlebots my own.

Via Technology Review