Will care-bots cure the loneliness of nursing homes?

But creating a robot that interacts productively with patients is more challenging than designing a robot for other customer service interactions—the stakes are higher, as is the need for sensitivity.

For one thing, the appearance of a care-bot is important—it should be human-like but not so much that it triggers an “uncanny valley” response.

“Sayabot’s design is based on studies that have found a ‘sweet spot’ between human and machine,” Jayakrishnan told The Daily Beast.

Details matter, such as Sayabot’s eyelashes, which humanize its face enough to make it appear engaged, but not creepy. Jayakrishnan’s team has also developed Sayabot’s voice, volume, and modulations to be “pleasant”; a robot can’t be helpful if its voice is grating or frightening.