Tuesday, 25 February 2020
Toyota launches 'baby' robot for companionship

Toyota launches 'baby' robot for companionship

A palm-sized robot that can hold conversations will go on sale in Japan next year, developer Toyota has announced.

Kirobo Mini, who was 10cm (4in) high, had been designed to provide companionship, the company said.

And it could tailor conversations to include comments about journeys based on data from its owner's vehicle.

It also has childlike attributes, but a robotics expert told the BBC a robot could not be a substitute for a child.

"He wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby, which hasn't fully developed the skills to balance itself," Fuminori Kataoka, Kirobo Mini's chief design engineer, told the Reuters news agency.

"This vulnerability is meant to invoke an emotional connection."

Prof Dr Kerstin Dautenhahn, from the school of computer science at the University of Hertfordshire, said the "cute" robot may appeal to young people.

"It reminded me of the Tamagotchi - the idea of having a cute little thing that is not necessarily giving you the impression that it is alive but has these lifelike attributes," she told the BBC.

It has a provisional price tag of 39,800 yen (£300), and there are no plans to sell it outside of Japan and is considerably cheaper than other companion robots. For instance, Aldebaran's humanoid robot, Pepper, cost 198,000 yen at launch.

(Excerpts from BBC News)