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Moxie The ‘Social Support’ Robot Is Super Creepy

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Embodied/YouTube

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article reporting on new robots specifically designed to entertain children during the pandemic. Specifically, it talked about two companies, whose offerings are on the complete opposite spectrum in terms of price.

On the low end, you have Purrble, a lovable looking stuffed animal “with a heartbeat.” In a video on their website, the creators of Purrble talk a lot of child psychology mumbo-jumbo to the effect that Purrbles help kids control their emotions and regulate their behaviors. This might well be true, but it does not take away from the fact that Purrbles are really the latest in a long line of “life-like” toys from the Cabbage Patch Kids to Hatchimals. Even their name is reminiscent of the Furby. At $50, it is relatively fairly priced for a child’s toy, and its attempt to sell itself as a “social support” device is relatively harmless.

Then there is Moxie. Moxie retails at $1500. The introductory video that Embodied, the company that makes Moxie, has on its website is straight-up one of the most dystopian things I’ve seen in my life:

According to the Wall Street Journal, Moxie is “a robot recommended for kids ages 5 to 10 that speaks in a childlike voice, remembers what it learns from prior conversations, and provides what eerily resembles human empathy.” My initial thought upon seeing Moxie in action was to the “Black Mirror “episode “Ashley Too,” in which a Moxie-like robot for teens is voiced by Miley Cyrus. Check out this clip:

See what I mean?

In a sendup of prescription drug ads that are legally required to quickly disclaim their antidepressants may lead to suicidal intentions, the “Black Mirror” faux ad for the Ashley Too notes “Ashley Too may perpetuate loneliness. Not to be used as an authentic companion.”

Should the same be said about Moxie?

This same thought occurred to Julie Jargon, the Journal reporter, who poses the question: “Is there a possibility that these new robots could end up being too effective, causing kids to prefer robots to people?”

This question was waved away by Embodied’s CEO, who noted that Moxie shuts down automatically if a child tries to use it for more than two hours a day.

But what does “shuts down automatically” mean? Does that mean that Moxie can’t be turned on again until some probationary period has elapsed? Or is it like a hot tub, which for safety reasons has to shut off after 20 minutes, but which everyone just turns on again anyway? Furthermore, two hours is a long time! Surely it is the job of a parent to come up with productive and educational ways to occupy their children and not outsource the work to some tech nerds.

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Tech

Labor Market Is Booming…If You Are A Cleaning Robot

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Photo via Amazon

Flying cars may still be years away, but in many ways we inch closer to life in “The Jetsons” every day. If iRobot’s Roombas (and their competitors, such as Anker’s Eufy, which we reviewed here) were not similar enough to Rosie the Robot for your tastes, then you’ll be ecstatic to learn about the new trend sweeping workplaces throughout the country.

During the COVID crisis, a new, more advanced type of cleaning robot has taken the office by storm. The Verge interviewed the heads of several of these companies and reported on these new machines, which go beyond cleaning up messes to actually spray viral disinfectant and UV radiation as they amble along. During the pandemic, the demand for these devices has skyrocketed. For example, Xenes, manufacturer of the LightStrike robots, says sales are up 600 percent.

The creepy part about these developments is less about their functioning, which appears genuinely useful, and more about how people talk about them. Like with Moxie the “social support robot,” the elites in business and media seem to be taking it for granted that the current generation of robotics is prepared to become Humanity 2.0. Notice this sentence in The Verge article about the Breezy One, made by a company called Build With Robots:

“Build With Robots says the cost for hiring its machines is between $3,250 and $10,750 a month, depending on the number of robots and the length of the contract.”

I’m sorry, but cleaning machines, no matter how “smart,” should be “rented,” not “hired.” I don’t care if they are equipped with LIDAR or 3D cameras to self-navigate. They are tools, not human labor. Hasn’t this country’s professional class degraded the working class enough as it is? Just wait until one of the robots malfunctions, and the HR department refers to it as a “sick day.”

One last thing, when designing these mechanical helpers, can we please stop giving them eyes? That includes “large mist-producing jet nozzles on top that look like “a pair of swiveling eyes.” I still remember the first time I went to the grocery store and came across Marty, Giant Food Stores’ terrifying automated floor checker. Memo to the nerds who make these things: it’s not cute, so cut it out.

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Is The TikTok Tihoo Actually Useful?

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Photo via Amazon

Alright TikTokers, you convinced me. After spending countless hours on the ubiquitous app and scrolling through hundreds of Amazon product recommendations, I finally caved and purchased the Tihoo, an electrical desktop dust collector. Now, out of all the products I’ve seen, I can’t tell you exactly why this product is the one I chose to buy. But I can tell you that I don’t regret it. Although the Tihoo wasn’t a necessity for me, would it have been as exciting if it was?

Photo via Amazon

Tihoo Keyboard Vacuum Cleaner Computer Desktop Table Dust Sweeper for Countertop Crumbs Collector for Eraser Shaving Table Cleaner for Kitchen Gadgets Mint Office Supplies — $15.99

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t sure the Tihoo would even work that well, but it was so cheap that I just said screw it. Well, slap my ass and call me Sally because this product literally blew my mind. It’s so simple, yet so useful. It’s essentially a battery powered, handheld vacuum cleaner that picks up all those little crumbs and dust particles that can be a nuisance to clean up yourself. It works on any hard surface and can even be used on carpeting if you’re really feeling lazy. I’ve tried it out on pretty much every surface, including my carpet, and it has yet to disappoint.

For just $15.99 on Amazon, The Tihoo offers an amazing and convenient cleaning solution and will save you from having to manually clean up those annoying little messes again. Shoutout TikTok.

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Fashion

Yes, Bose Sunglasses Are Still A Thing

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Stylish (photo via Bose)

Longtime We Know Products readers surely remember the first time we covered Bose’s attempt to make speaker sunglasses a thing, all the way back in May 2019. Speaker sunglasses were apparently a much greater success than Bose’s other attempt to get into the “wearables” business, the “SoundWear Companion,” which you can no longer buy on the Bose website. Since releasing their first pair of speaker sunglasses, retroactively named the “Rondo,” and following it up with the “Alto,” Bose has expanded its offerings to include three new styles: the Tempo, the Soprano, and the Tenor.

Bose is putting a lot of marketing dollars into these products, and it’s likely you’ve already seen you favorite Instagram influencers start to flaunt these on specs. But does that mean you need to rush out and buy yourself a pair?

A year and a half later, the best reason to get Bose sunglasses is still being able to cocoon yourself in a world of sound without coming off as standoffish. Unlike AirPods and their knockoffs, wearing a set of sunglasses does not signal to the world that you are currently occupied. Most impressively, despite having to be big enough to blast sound into your ears, the temples are not so large as to clearly indicate a piece of futuristic technology.

For its slogan, Bose is going with “Without the sound, they’re just sunglasses.” Cleverly, this has a double meaning, highlighting the value of music playing from your frames while also making it known that the sunglasses are subtle enough to be worn for style alone.

It remains to be seen if speaker sunglasses catch on, but in 2020 we are much more bullish on the prospect. After high-profile failures of Snapchat and Google, could Bose be the company that finally cracks the code on popularizing “smart” shades? Only time will tell.

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