Toyota has launched in the palm-sized Kirobo Mini companion robot at the CEATEC electronics show currently under way in Tokyo.
Based on an earlier design for an anthropomorphic space robot, the Kirobo Mini features cute anime-style design, and has a mouth and eyes that light up when it's interacting with humans.
It's able to mimic some of the expressions and motions of a human baby, as it's able to bobble, blink, gesture, and move its head and arms.
If the device is connected via Bluetooth to the accompanying smartphone app, the Kirobo Mini is also able to interpret standard spoken Japanese and converse with people. Over time, the robot is able to learn about its owner's preferences, and can remember where they've travelled to together.
With the aid of its built-in camera, the Kirobo Mini is also able to determine a person's mood through their facial expressions, and will tailor its interactions to suit.
In an interview with Reuters, Fuminori Kataoka, the robot's chief design engineer, said that Kirobo Mini "wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby, which hasn't fully developed the skills to balance itself — this vulnerability is meant to invoke an emotional connection".
The Kirobo Mini weighs only 183 grams and is about 10cm tall when seated. The robot is designed to operate at home, on foot, and in the car, and is available with a tiny little seat that's designed to fit inside a car's cupholder slot.
The Kirobo Mini goes on sale soon throughout Japan from 2017 with an asking price of 39,800 yen ($515). The accompanying smartphone app costs 300 yen ($3.90) per month to use.
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