Prof. Asada is the leader of the JST ERATO Asada Project and his team has been working on "cognitive developmental robotics," which aims to understand the development of human intelligence through the use of robots.
Affetto is modeled after a one- to two-year-old child and will be used to study the early stages of human social development. There have been earlier attempts to study the interaction between child robots and people and how that relates to social development, but the lack of realistic child appearance and facial expressions has hindered human-robot interaction, with caregivers not attending to the robot in a natural way.
(Affetto practices realistic human expressions video)
In Supertoys Last All Summer Long, a 1967 story by Brian Aldiss, a childless couple adopts a young robot boy while waiting for government permission to have a child.
...When she had come down from the nursery, Monica had de-opaqued the windows, so that they now revealed the vista of garden beyond. Artificial sunlight was growing long and golden across the lawn - and David and Teddy were staring through the window at them.
Seeing their faces, Henry and his wife grew serious.
"What do we do about them?" Henry asked.
"Teddy's no trouble. He works well."
"Is David malfunctioning?"
"His verbal communication-center is still giving trouble. I think he'll have to go back to the factory again."
"Okay. We'll see how he does before the baby's born.