Toyota has announced a tiny, 10cm robot that has been designed to show off the latest AI technologies.
The company’s Kirobo Mini is described as a social robot and can hold real, human-like conversations.
Audio is picked up by the robot and then sent to a user’s smartphone and then sent on to Toyota’s servers, which will unpackage the meaning behind the words. It will analyse the way things are said rather than just the words, to detect emotion and meaning and will then respond in the way it thinks is most relevant.
It’s apparently been designed as a companion for lonely people – whether they’re old or suffer from conditions that make it hard to be social. Reuters reports it’s perfect for childless people too, saying it’s been “designed as a synthetic baby companion in Japan, where plummeting birth rates have left many women childless.”
It could also help develop language in children as an educational tool, encouraging them to talk more and use more varied language.
Fuminori Kataoka, Toyota’s chief design engineer said the Kirobo Mini is designed to create an emotional connection with users and features other childlike traits including wobbling and speaking with a babyish, high-pitched voice.
The Kirobo Mini is due to launch on pre-order later this year and will be shipped in 2017, although it’s not quite clear who it’s aimed at. At first though, it’ll only be available to people living in Tokyo and probably won’t ever be on sale outside Japan.
It will cost ¥39,800 (£315), but anyone who wants to make use of the robot will also have to pay a fee of ¥300 (£2.50) a month for the Toyota Cloud service.