German scientists taught a human-like robot how to give a hug and provide emotional support to people.
Footage shows HuggieBot raising its plastic arms before embracing the person in front when prompted.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart made the robot wear a jacket to better imitate warm hugs.
Project leader Alexis Block said they are interested in enabling robots to give a hug because of its health benefits.
He said: ‘We were interested in enabling robots to hug because of how common hugs are in daily life and because of the many health benefits.
The scientist added they have found several studies showing how hugs can relieve stress and reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
He said: ‘We want the robot to be introduced as a way to supplement human hugs in certain situations instead of replacing them.’
The research team tried the hugs given by the robot themselves and found that the hugging robot should be soft, warm, and shaped like a person so they came up with the humanoid.
After coming up with HuggieBot’s prototype, they invited participants to try it out.
Alexis said that at first, people were hesitant and appeared like they did not know what to do, but after the robot approached them for an embrace, the participants’ mood lightened up.
He said: ‘Some of them even told us that Huggiebot seemed nicer to hug than they had anticipated.’
After successful initial trials, the team now plans to experiment on letting the robot provide emotional support to school dormitories and senior facilities.