Are the elderly the hot new design demographic? First came a small FOB item in the June issue of I.D. about SenseChair, a stylish prototype that uses 12 sensors to monitor vital signs, sleep patterns, and activity levels and rouses seniors who have been sitting too long in one position using motor, sound, and light alerts. (The same team of Carnegie Mellon researchers and designers also unveiled the “Hug” prototype, which uses heat, light, and sound signals to mimic human interaction.)
Now ReadyMade alerts us to Yumel and Ifbot, two new Japanese dolls that act as interactive companions for the senior set. Yumel, says ReadyMade, “is essentially a chatty life monitor, detecting pulse and breathing rate and cautioning against overexertion. Irregular heartbeat after an early-morning golf game? ‘You are working too hard,’ Yumel cautions.” Ifbot (made by Business Design Laboratory, it sells for more than $5,000) is equally talkative and will even play games and generally act like an “inattentive grandchild.”
We applaud the SenseChair for keeping seniors healthy, but these dolls sound over-the-top creepy. When we looked further into Yumel’s origins, we found this quote from the project leader: “If you lead an orderly life, Yumel will be in a good mood, singing songs or pleading with you to do something like buying him toys.” This sounds bad enough, but what happens if you become depressed, overweight, and let the dishes pile up? Does Yumel throw tantrums and make bitchy, passive-aggressive comments? What if you abandon Yumel completely? Will he act out and take your car out for a joyride like Durrell on Six Feet Under? We suggest you get your lonely grandparent a loving Lhasa Apso or something and call it a day.