Robots: The Cure for Loneliness?

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Lonely hearts, listen up: German designer Stefan Ulrich has created a robot that he believes could one day replace our societal need for real-life human relationships. Funktionide — a white, shapeless, pillow-like object — was developed using artificial muscle technology, otherwise known as electroactive polymers, which react to pressure, skin temperature and color to produce human-like movements, from breathing to cuddling up to its owner. Cozy.

Ulrich tells the Sun of his invention, “The products of the future will, in effect, be alive. People already bury themselves in possessions and shield themselves from real life with technology. So if robots and objects can fulfill all their emotional needs as well, why do they need other humans?” (More on Sci-Fi Sexy Time: All-Time Hottest Robots)

While disregarding the obvious answers to that question, we concede that Funktionide could be a precursor to the types of products us humans are likely to interact with in the future. In fact, Ulrich conducted months of research with Festo, a German supplier of pneumatic and electrical automation technology, and EMPA, a Swiss material sciences and technology institution, to explore the potential of this material. They found that technology like electroactive polymers opens the door for inventions that not only move, but also morph shapes, change colors and tactile surfaces, and more.

While we’re not sure you would want to bring Funktionide home for dinner with your folks — nor can you, since this blob of love isn’t available in the mass market quite yet — we admit it might be comforting (if not slightly creepy) to enjoy the illusion of companionship during lonely nights watching reruns on the couch. That is, if you like clingy, blubbery robots.

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