Is Smart Home Tech Ready to Tackle…Loneliness?


Whether you live alone by choice or by circumstance, you don’t have to be lonely anymore. There truly are niche markets for all kinds of things using smart home technology.

Those that live alone in the U.S. and in other countries might be suffering from a number of side effects of loneliness, including isolation, depression, and sadness. Sounds like a bummer. Oh, but don’t worry, there is – of course – tech to help you feel better.

Tech has most recently gotten a bad name when it comes to social activity; most people argue that things like social networks actually make people less connected and less happy. But what happens when a product comes along with the intent to help with feelings of isolation through more personal, smaller audiences? What happens when connectivity helps build a feeling of community, instead of elitism?

Meet Fribo, the cat-like home robot that is here to make you feel like you aren’t socially isolated, even if you are. This little gadget is cute to look at, but it also serves a purpose.

Here’s how it works:

  • This robot encourages young people that live alone to interact with each other through texting and calling
  • You can connect to other households that have a Fribo so that you can communicate through the robot
  • This virtual living space can then help people that are not physically connected stay in touch to reduce the feeling of isolation
  • The Fribo robot works by listening to households and locating specific sounds with its microphones and sensors
  • Certain action will trigger the Fribo, which will then send an anonymous alert to the pre-approved group that you’re connected with
  • Actions that trigger Fribo include what is termed as “living noise,” which would be things like lights turning on or off, doors opening or closing, vacuum cleaners running, and access refrigerators
  • Fribo also uses its sensors to detect your presence in a room, and can note changes in things like temperature and light, which would indicate someone is in the room
  • When you or your group receives a message about someone’s activity, the group can respond to everyone, send a direct message, or even clap
  • Knocking twice near your Fribo, will send a direct message to the original home asking what you’re doing, identifying you, and saying that you are curious
  • Clapping three times near your Fribo will send a response, such as when someone gets home, clapping three times can prompt a message that welcomes them home

I’m still on the fence about this product, in general, but I can see how it could help people feel connected to those that they are away from. This could be especially fun for those that have long distance friends and family. It could also be annoying if you’re a student living on campus or abroad and suddenly your parents are tracking when you leave and arrive home.

Initial beta testing for Fribo was done in Korea, so additional testing in other markets will give more insight on its future.

Featured image provided by Yonsei University & KAIST