Perhaps the most huggable robot in the history of robots, Baymax was the big white inflatable-vinyl hero of Disney’s Big Hero 6. In the story, the main protagonist’s older brother, a budding young inventor at San Fransokyo Tech named Tadashi, has designed Baymax to be a sort of soft robo-nurse with a gentle bedside manner and a concern for human health.
His vocal patterns mimic the sort of halting intonations that typically characterize synthesized speech, pausing at proper nouns and shifting pitch when inserting variables. Rather than being irritating, the way it can be when talking to a automated voice system, Baymax’s robo-speech gives a sense of technological authenticity while also contributing to the charming quirkiness of his character. His misconstructions of language are often child-like and endearing, like when he calls a cat a “hairy baby” or misses the sound-effect reference of an exploding fist-bump.
Despite the battle-bot modifications that come later in the story, Baymax retains his naive bedside manner, and his personality evolves from simple health-bot to a loving protector and substitute family member.
If you only consider Baymax’s gentle persona, and not his cartoonish physicality, or superhero circumstances, Big Hero 6 provides a pretty feasible depiction of what it might be like to interact with a digital companion in the near future.
Probably the most important takeaway is the idea that a utilitarian program (an expert system designed to provide medical treatment) running long enough and responding to ever-changing experiences, can evolve into something that resembles emotional sophistication.