If you've been lonely during this lockdown, Sony's latest patent might give you something to look forward to. The Japanese tech giant has patented a robot companion - an operating buddy, if you will - that sits alongside you as you game and reacts to your emotional state.
According to the US Patent Office listing, Sony's robot buddy manages its actions and reactions "on the basis of the...user's feeling". The patent describes the bot as a "joint viewing player" who will experience and show sympathy with your emotions. In a rather heartbreaking example, Sony says if you pat the robot on the head, it'll recognize that you're feeling positive, but if you kick it, the robot will acknowledge you're not feeling so great.
What is Sony's new robot friend good for?
According to the patent, Sony also wants your new robotic pal to be able to play games with you to a certain extent. The example the patent gives is one of a baseball game in which the bot is playing the other team. Of course, that opens up the possibility of co-operative gameplay too. You could soon be going on your very own rescue mission with your very own Astro Bot.
The patent also refers to the robot's emotional capabilities. Rather worryingly, it refers to the bot's "love index", which enables it to respond to the player in appropriate ways (alongside its "feeling deduction unit"). If you don't charge your buddy when it asks, for example, it'll think you don't love it anymore and will respond as if you're being mean. Sony is hoping this will enhance your motivation for playing games and increase your affinity with your new friend. If you've got someone - even a robotic someone - to enjoy gaming with, then you'll be all the more motivated to enjoy it.
Interestingly, the patent makes reference to a virtual-reality version of the new robot companion. The patent says you'll be able to "see how the virtual character is viewing the content" with you when you turn your head with a VR headset on. That means you can watch your virtual reality robot watching you play games, or perhaps watching movies. What a strange world we live in.
We have no idea on a timeframe for this little robot friend, nor do we know what it might eventually be called. Of course, there's every chance it will never actually enter production; many patents are simply things their parent companies are experimenting with. It'd be cute to see this hit the market, if only to see how quickly it betrays Asimov's laws and the rampages begin.
Would you buy Sony's robot friend? What games would you play with it? Let us know in the comments below!