Would you like to be friends with me?

If this question came from a person you met a while ago it might seem quite natural. But what if the question came from a robot? A robot that is designed to help people with dementia connect with their social circles and battle isolation and loneliness which worsen their condition. Would you be friends with it? Well if the robot’s mission is related with social connectedness it should sooner or later become acquainted with its user, know their friends and family, his /her interests and habits etc in order to be of any help. Isn’t this what friends also do after all when they first meet? They learn about each other. So, inevitably, if we want the robot to accomplish its mission we should present it to its users as a friend. A robot-friend who helps them stay connected with their real life friends.

These were our thoughts behind the decision to present the robot of the Mario project using a user profile in social media. That is why we created the Facebook profile of the Mario Kompai robot and its respective Twitter account (@Mario_Kompai). In an age where ‘friend’ starts to have an additional meaning (that of social media friends) to the traditional one we decided to present the robot through these media and start asking people to become friends with it so that they start knowing each other.

Since we want people to start thinking of the Mario Kompai as a robot-friend, social media presents the ideal opportunity for starting such a relationship. We want users to connect with the account and start discussing with the robot their thoughts, ideas, concerns and fears so that they play a crucial role in its design. All comments and discussions are certainly going to affect the robot’s personality and character since they will be taken into account in its design process. We‘d like users to feel that they already know the robot when they first meet and start communication with it so it will feel like meeting a friend you already know. Not like installing a new appliance in your home.

That being said, if you know people that might be interested to take part in this very exciting and innovative journey, people that might be using the robot in a few years or people taking care people with dementia (family, friends, carers, etc.), let them know that there is robot out there seeking their friendship so that they can help each other!

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  Co-funded by the European Union

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