Designing an Ikigai Robot

Nick and Natasha Randall delve into the complex aspects of designing an ikigai robot, exploring the nuanced factors that must be carefully considered.

Ikigai robot design

Nick: This all leads to potentially an ikigai robot. So let's talk about designing an ikigai robot. What needs to be considered in ikigai robot design?

Natasha: So one thing that we want to think about starting with is building rapport between the robot and the person; when you start to talk about these intimate topics such as ikigai, having a sense of general forge is going to ease that conversation.

So I think the opening how the robot is introduced, is really important. So that's one thing, and then it's really critical that the robot have information about the person. So it has some sort of model of how much ikigai that person has, and what brings that person ikigai.

And then when you're thinking about making suggestions to a particular person to do something, you can do it based on a model of what you know their likes are, what you know brings them joy, meaning, who they actually have in their lives.

So that sort of information is really important. So these have to be individualized to some extent. We've said this, there's no one source of ikigai for everybody, and there's no one ikigai model for everybody, when you think about using AI.

And then the robot also just needs to continually learn as well. So people's sources of ikigai do change over time, other aspects of their life change over time: the people in it, the community in which they're ingrained.

And so that also should become part of the model as well. And then we really think about this notion of people who already have high ikigai. So they already have high ikigai, they don't necessarily need to introduce something new into their lives, they just need to be maybe reminded to continually engage in these activities, especially during these life transitions.

So I think the point also, would you introduce these robots, if you're thinking about introducing them into the home is also really important. Because having them introduced before people make these big life changes can really help with that.

For people who actually don't have very much ikigai, having the robot suggest new things. So we can think about sources of ikigai, how the robot think about the three levels of ikigai that they have or may not have? So do they have kind of a community source of ikigai?

Do they have some way they feel like they're contributing? Do they have personal hobbies, which become even more important, as they age as these social roles start to shift and change?

And, you know, one thing that I looked at in research that will be hopefully published soon, is the fact that these social roles, satisfaction with your social roles actually tie less to ikigai, correlate less to ikigai than satisfaction with leisure, hobbies, and friendships.

So thinking about how those things change, so how do we actually promote hobbies? How do we actually promote personal interests as well? And how do we balance that, so people feel like they're also really not degrading or compromising their personal relationships in any way?

So yeah, another aspect is how then do we think about increasing sources of ikigai, or just increasing the feeling of ikigai? So it's not always necessary that people need new sources of ikigai. Just the appreciation or reflection on potential sources of ikigai they have in their life can potentially be enough to increase ikigai as well.

Nick: This is interesting. So these robots will most cue people to remember: "That's my ikigai source", or "why don't you ring your friend?" Or "why don't you play some music?" Or "why don't you exercise?" So these robots, we should highlight that they're learning robots, as well.

So they're going to learn to distinguish what are the appropriate sources of ikigai and then use that information to, I guess, remind the person they're looking after. And I actually saw a documentary quite a while ago, there was an old couple, and they didn't want the responsibility of a pet, I think.

So this idea, we'll talk about that, because it could be a concern. But yeah, they had this cute little robot with this cute voice. And every time it gave an answer, it would then confirm with, you know, a question like, "was that answer appropriate?"

So it's learning how to best serve this particular couple. So I'm sure that's the case with these robots or with ikigai robot, it'll be learning, so then it can best deliver, or best help whoever they're looking after.

Natasha: Right, yeah. So like you said, it is really important to learn about the individual, and having these suggestions confirmed by the individual. So having the robot actually suggest something.

And the person giving the robot direct feedback is a really kind of clear and easy way to then train any model on that: did I get this right?

Is that something you want to hear again? I think that also gives people more of a sense of autonomy as well, because they feel like they're a little bit more in control of the experience and the interaction.