Toyota Motor Corp. has unveiled “Kirobo Mini” – a palm-sized baby robot – for childless women in Japan.
Shrinking birth rates in the country have left many women childless. In the past five decades, Japanese births have halved to only a million a year, according to government statistics. One out of 10 women in the country never marries and since births out of wedlock are looked down upon, they occur considerably less.
Kirobo Mini is meant to “invoke an emotional connection” and provide companionship to all who buy it. The 4-inch robot understands Japanese and can even engage in conversation with its owner.
“He wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby, which hasn't fully developed the skills to balance itself,” said Fuminori Kataoka, Kirobo Mini's chief design engineer. “This vulnerability is meant to invoke an emotional connection.”
The little robot can turn its head towards whomever it is conversing with and can even gesticulate with its arms. The built-in camera helps it remember people’s faces and recognize their moods. Kirobo can also “remember” its owner personal preferences.
The robot will be available for sale next year for a price of 39,800 yen ($392).
Kataoka said the company perceives Kirobo Mini as a stepping-stone towards the creation of more advanced robots that can recognize and react to human emotions.
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