Compelling, disquieting and droll doco explores the development in Japan and comsumption worldwide of therapeutic robots: can robots offer a substitute for human affection?
Screened as part of NZIFF 2008
"What makes a robot human? What is human likeness?" Professor Ishiguro ponders while his "geminoid" (i.e. real-person based android) twin hovers alongside. Disconcertingly phlegmatic that his wife might settle for his robot self, Ishiguro is less upbeat at the thought that his young daughter might not need him anymore should he manage to imbue the android with sanzai-kan - that human presence without which the droid doesn‘t feel alive to us. But he‘s working on it anyway. For in a world where the elderly are outnumbering the young, a dearth of caregivers is certain and therapeutic interactive robots are the way of the future. One such creature, Paro, a seal-lookalike invented by another Japanese team, is already providing revitalising companionship to an elderly woman in a nursing home - and upsetting the staff with its wailing. Worse, Paro, satisfyingly responsive to nurturing, inspires more affection than real folks. Compelling, disquieting and droll, this gaze at relationships ahead vividly illustrates the age-old need to love. — SR