Episode Summary

This week Harry continues to explore advances in "digital therapeutics" in a conversation with Paolo Pirjanian, the founder and CEO of the robotics company Embodied. They’ve created an 8-pound, 16-inch-high robot called Moxie that’s intended as a kind of substitute therapist that can help kids with their social-emotional learning. Moxie draws on some of the same voice-recognition and voice-synthesis technologies found in digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home, but it also has an expressive body and face designed to make it more engaging for kids. The device hit the market in 2020, and parents are already saying the robot helps kids learn how to talk themselves down when they’re feeling angry or frustrated, and how to be more confident in their conversations with adults or other kids. But Moxie isn’t inexpensive; it has a purchase price comparable to a high-end cell phone, and on top of that there’s a required monthly subscription that costs as much as some cellular plans. So it feels like there are some interesting questions to work out about who’s going to pay for this new wave of digital therapeutics, and whether they’ll be accessible to everyone who needs them. Pirjanian discussed that with Harry, along with a bunch of other topics, from the product design choices that went into Moxie to the company’s larger ambitions to build social robots for many other applications like entertainment or elder care.


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