What if your child is given a robot that has a brain with loads of heart.
Manufactured by Mumbai-based Emotix, Miko is India’s first robot that has been designed to interact with children. Costing Rs. 19,000, the robot offers the capability of engaging, educating, and entertaining a child the Indian way.
Miko encourages the children to speak to it by saying “Ask me something”. It responds to questions related to general knowledge, basic maths, performs dances or can do fun stuff likes sing rhymes and tell stories.
Just by using a prefix- “Hey Miko”, Miko responds to the queries. It also teaches children social manners like not to litter around and can play book cricket too.
The bot moves on three legs and has LED on its sides. The LEDs change colour which adds to the attraction towards the bot which does not require an internet connection to work.
Using bots to interact with children can seem to be a distant idea in India. But in rapidly changing scenario where the families are going nuclear, the robot lends a ray of hope to such parents.
Sneh Vaswani, one of the co-founders of Emotix, believes:
In India, a social robot is completely unheard of. We conducted a lot of pilots with consumers and kids (to determine whether Miko has a market in India). There was an engineering pilot to decide the engineering architecture of the product. There was an option that we could have a camera on this (robot) and content streamed to a tablet. We could have a mobile phone placed on it and it could have two wheels.
Telling more about the hustle of ever-changing designs, he says:
We had an AR/ VR headset element to the experience but parents told us they don’t want a headset strapped to their child’s face.Similarly, parents were vehemently opposed to the idea of having a camera on Miko and voiced their concerns about it making the robot feel like a spy.
To be launched in February 2017, Miko has generated mixed reviews from people. Mumbai-based psychologist Sadia Saeed Raval commented:
We haven’t used this robot so I don’t want to dismiss it out of hand. Having said that, it’s still a machine and it’s not a substitute for humans and human interaction.It’s much better to ask children to spend time in a common space with other children. Even pets are great for children’s mental health.
However, at present, Miko only understands English language, which could be negative point as India is a country where there are several mother tongues and accents. Emotix is working on two other languages namely Hindi and Hinglish.
Apart from that Miko has been given a gender-neutral voice and can work for three to five hours once completely charged.
This could be a giant leap of technology and parenting in India. We do not know what its impact on children will be, but we do hope that Miko helps in shaping up of India’s future.