Regina Konstantinova — Unlike most robots, this one is very cuddly: it looks like a two-meter-tall plush toy. The bot's name is Obnimishka, which comes from the Russian "obnimi" for "hug" and "mishka" for "teddy bear."
The hugging robot was originally created by a team of programmers from Russian IT-company Mail.Ru Group to mark Valentine's Day in 2016.
"In many countries, teddies have become a universal symbol of love and care. So, when we thought of how to congratulate our colleagues on Valentine's Day, this idea popped up promptly. We knew we needed a teddy bear… A big robotic teddy bear," Mail.Ru Group's team told Sputnik.
The soft robot is equipped with sensors, which can measure your hugs according to different parameters: strength, smoothness, vigor and duration. The sensors of the toy collect data and send it to a tiny computer where these metrics are analyzed by a program written by the team.
Obnimishka will announce the results itself, as it is able to speak, thanks to a built-in voice synthesizer with pre-recorded samples.
"During the experiment, we had to permanently get inside the teddy in order to install the equipment, change the batteries or check the sensors. So, we decided to sew in a zipper to Obnimishka's back, as we didn't want to tear him apart every time," the programmers said.
Now this bear gives out love to everyone who attends the "Robostation" exhibition at Moscow's VDNKh. The bear is available to visit from February 14 to March 14, and this month the robot-bear will be involved in various competitions for visitors to determine "the most tender hugs" or "the most powerful embrace."
If the experiment with the bear is successful, the robot will get some additional functions. For example, it will be able to match pairs of visitors, who hug in a compatible manner.