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The Revd Canon Ann Easter asks who wants toys for freinds

PUBLISHED: 16:47 14 August 2013 | UPDATED: 17:20 14 August 2013

Archant

I heard that Japanese scientists have invented a robot which will be sent to the International Space Station as a companion for the astronaut who’s working away by himself up there.

The robot, which is 13 inches tall, is called Kirobo from the Japanese word for hope. And Kirobo can identify human faces and voices – those to which it’s been programmed, of course – and can have meaningful conversations because it also recognises emotions.

The idea is that Kirobo will provide emotional support for the astronaut and that perhaps, in time, we might be able to use such devices to befriend lonely people.

Didn’t we used to call those things dolls? I had Helen, she of the blonde curly hair – well, it was until I washed it – and brilliant blue eyes: I made clothes for her and she never stopped smiling, no matter what I said or did to her, and then was Terry the bear, whose fur had been worn or cried away and who still sits on top of our wardrobe, along with Christopher’s beloved teddy who accompanied him through the trauma of boarding school.

Those toys that we have as children help us to deal with some of the ups and downs of life as they absorb – sometimes literally! – our reactions and prepare us for life.

But I’m not happy about dolls, even those who can talk empathetically, being used as companions where humans would do. I’ve known young men who want a ‘‘crying, talking, sleeping, walking, living doll’’ but maybe that’s because, they’re worried they couldn’t cope with a real woman. Humans can be irritating and difficult! And such a blooming nuisance sometimes, especially when they go and die on you. But, with all their faults, I still think that people are better than robots.


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