Assistant professor Hisashi Ishihara developed the Affetto, a robot designed to realistically simulate a 20-month old, in order to further his study of the face-to-face emotional interactions between mother and baby. In order to maximize the accuracy of emotional information we could get from it, it was absolutely vital to make the robot resemble a real baby as much as possible. Our plan at this point is to see what sorts of interactions people will have with a robot that so closely resembles a real baby. We regard this robot as a tool; while of course a real baby can’t be directly controlled, with a robot we can perform systematic experiments, allowing us to study, say, if a baby acts in such a way, what kind of effect does that have on the baby and the mother? With a real mother and child, their interaction begins before the baby is even born, while still a fetus; even after the baby is born, the mother and baby spend their time together, and they tend to resemble each other as a result. Obviously there’s a degree of this that is caused through character traits being passed genetically, but spending daily life together is also a significant factor in this as well. The effects of this sort of social interaction on cognitive development are naturally also among the targets of our research. Additionally, we’re also studying the effects of prenatal experiences, like the rhythmic movement, the mother’s breathing, or even the mother’s listening to music.
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