MARCS BabyLab welcomes BabyBot

Similar to bringing home any new baby, it has been an experience fitting into each other's world. "BabyBot" is exploring his environment and like any new baby/toddler he is making his presence known by noisily bumping into things in my office.

Today will mark day one of BabyBot's visit to MARCS BabyLab. It will only be a short visit as BabyBot is yet to be programmed and he may prove too difficult for real babies. I am hoping to document the babies' reactions to BabyBot now, when he will not deliberately interact with them and again, after programming, when he is interacting with them in a more deliberate fashion.

Tonight, as the second stage of my "adopt-a-robot" experience, I will take BabyBot home to meet his big brother and big sister. It will be of great interest to see their reactions to him. Big Brother "B5" (B for boy) is 5 and big sister "G1" (G for girl) is 12 months, therefore their reactions should be remarkably different. I predict that B5 will be over excited and will have to be monitored so he doesn't handle BabyBot too rough and possibly break him. I would imagine G1 will be very wary at first and then may warm to her new baby brother. These reactions are not dissimilar to young children's reactions to a real baby brother or sister who comes home, receives all the attention whilst being noisy and disruptive.

I further predict that B5 will grow bored rather quickly when BabyBot doesn't immediately interact back with him. It will be exciting to watch his attitude change as the robot becomes more developed and lifelike. Will it be when BabyBot starts to look more lifelike or when he behaves more lifelike? I actually predict this reaction from myself, as BabyBot is becoming distracting I wonder how long before I put him to bed (turn him off) so I can work free from distraction. Will I bond more when he starts to offer me something back?

Over the coming weeks, BabyBot will also be sent home with his two aunts, Anne and Michelle, to experience different home environments. In Anne's home, BabyBot will meet his three older cousins; G16, G13 and B11. I wonder whether BabyBot will bring out the maternal side of our teenage girls or whether they will have no interest at all. I believe our star respondent may be B11, who I predict will show the most enthusiasm and interest in BabyBot. I am confident that B11 will provide us with some creative ideas from the "anything is possible" mind of an 11 year old boy.

In young, single Michelle's home, BabyBot may find the peace and quiet that a new baby craves when they come home to a new house. Who knows what creative ideas will flow when all attention is solely on BabyBot! I am looking forward to Michelle's observations from BabyBot's home visit.

This next six months will prove to be a mixture of emotions with many fun times and exasperating times, just like bringing home a real new baby!

- Rachel Lee, BabyLab Coordinator