You lie in the hospital bed, your heartbeat weak, your breath faint. Old age has conquered you: You can feel throughout your body that you are going to die, and you resign yourself to the inevitable. You let your eyelids fall for a final time, preparing to pass on to the next life, when suddenly, a little white robot appears at your bedside, hovering over you.
“Hello,” the robot says to you, gently caressing your forearm with its cold, metallic hand. “I am the Last Moment Robot. I am here to help you and guide you through your last moment on earth.”
“I am sorry that your family and friends can’t be with you right now, but don’t be afraid. I am here to comfort you.”
This would be a totally macabre way to die. Fortunately for us, this is an art installation created by Dan Chen. The project is part of his thesis for his Masters degree at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Chen writes elsewhere that the Last Moment Robot was inspired by Paro, the plush “therapeutic robot” used in Japan to comfort the inflicted, especially patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s. While Paro is an adorable stuffed seal, however, the Last Moment Robot is a jungle gym-like construction of metallic tubes, rods, and hinges, thus enabling that “paradoxical sensation of knowingly interacting with a placebo treatment” Chen was going for.
As for me, when I do go, I want to be surrounded by my loved ones, who will be stroking my arm and weeping and wailing in sadness. If I can’t have that, I hope it’s because I went out in a blaze of glory, partaking in a dangerous yet fun hobby that I was passionate about. “At least she was doing something she loved.”