Better make sure you have plenty of visitors during your hospital stay, or they might send in the droids to keep you company.
Welcome to Uncanny Valley Hospital, where every room comes equipped with an unnerving automaton to watch over you with cold, dead eyes. Thankfully, that’s not a real place, but sadly the robot is. The Actroid-F, as it’s called, was developed by Kokoro Co. Ltd. and ATR to act as an observer in hospital rooms.
The Actroid-F isn’t actually autonomous; instead, it tracks and replicates the operator’s head movements, albeit in a much more jerky fashion. It puts me in mind of a Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, with the not entirely natural looking head tilts. On the plus side, its range of movement seems to be limited to the face and upper body, so there’s no risk of waking up and finding it standing over you, stroking your hair.
Putting the creepy factor aside for a moment, the robot looks remarkably lifelike when it’s still, but the way it moves very quickly reveals that something is “off” about it. Personally, if I was sick enough to be in hospital, it’s not something I’d want in the room with me. Perhaps it’s different in Japan, but the efforts to make it look more like a person actually make it less comforting, and something with a more obviously mechanical face would likely be a lot more effective. But then again, that really is the essence of the uncanny valley.