The idea behind Fribo seems to me to be much more palatable than the prospect of every household getting an internet-connected microphone that broadcasts details of everything within earshot to a central server:

When a Fribo in your home hears a noise that it recognizes, it sends a message to another Fribo in your friend’s home, or even to an entire network of Fribos belonging to people you know:

As an example, let us assume one friend opened a refrigerator. When [Fribo] receives this event from the server, the robot starts to communicate this to the user by saying, “Oh, someone just opened the refrigerator door. I wonder which food your friend is going to have.”

Fribo, in other words, is not exactly a social robot: It’s more like a social networking robot. But unlike most social networks, Fribo was carefully thought out to respect your privacy as much as possible. Note that the message sent to your friends is anonymous—it tells them that someone is doing a thing, but not who. If they’re interested, they can let Fribo know by knocking on something nearby, and your Fribo will tell you exactly who responds. If you like, you can then ping them back directly.

I could do without the frequent prompts to remind your friend to bundle up in bad weather, but the general concept seems interesting.1 Initial testing took place in South Korea, so it’d be interesting to see how that sort of implementation detail changed if they tested this in a different culture.

[Via Sentiers 28]

  1. On the other hand, I could very easily see myself getting irritated if the upshot of having Fribo listen out for the sound of my picking up my keys and heading for my front door was that my departure for work every morning would be delayed for five minutes while I reassured my circle of friends that yes, I was carrying an umbrella with me this morning because it was due to rain later today.