Kirobo Mini is a companion robot and is the smaller form of the Kirobo robot created by Toyota to go along with the Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata on his journey to the International Space Station (ISS) about three years back.
Today, Toyota promises to sell Kirobo Mini to the Japanese customers seeking a companion for 39,800 yen. Kirobo Mini is 10cm high can easily fit in the palm of your hand. The cuddlesome lil bot comes along with a unique cradle to sit in the cup holder of any vehicle.
Kirobo Mini can engage its human companions with casual talk and hand and head actions. The integrated camera in the companion bot allows it to identify the facial expressions, identify emotions, and respond accordingly.
Kirobo Mini can also recall the likes and dislikes of the owner to really make the connection a lot more realistic and heart-felt. Kirobo Mini links to the smartphone via Bluetooth.
The Falling Birthrates in Japan and a Baby-like Companion Bot
Although it may look that Toyota picked the style of the robot to look like a baby since it is easier to interact with one; however, the decision was rather more strategic. The primary design engineer for Kirobo Mini, Fuminori Kataoka elaborated how the design and style allows individuals to be connected with the bot:
“He 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.”
It will be much easier to interact with a companion robot that looks like it needs you instead of the other way round. More Japanese folks than ever are living alone now. The entire world human population elevated by half a billion from 2010 to 2015, despite this Japanese population dropped by one million.
Toyota’s companion robot is an unlikely remedy to the decreasing birthrates in Japan. The corporate representative said about the product:
“Toyota Heart is a unique project that explores the development of meaningful communication between humans and robots. The program has been created with the assumption of having a conversation with young children.”
Check out Kirobo Mini in action in this video: