Toyota's cute Kirobo Mini robot is a traveling companion

IDG News Service | Oct 4, 2016

Kirobo Mini is small and light enough to be carried around but is probably most at home in the car. There’s a snug holder to keep it safe in a cup holder, and yes, even Kirobo wears a seat belt.

This little robot is just 10 centimeters tall, can respond to questions and apparently has the ability to learn more about its owner.

It’s called Kirobo Mini and comes from Japanese car-maker Toyota. It’s part of research the company is doing into bridging the gap between cars and people’s lives, and Kirobo could certainly do that.

It’s small and light enough to be carried around but is probably most at home in the car. There’s a snug holder to keep it safe in a cup holder, and yes, even Kirobo wears a seat belt.

During a demonstration at Japan’s Ceatec electronics show, Kirobo Mini was able to answer questions asking its name, hometown, favorite actress and hobby. For the record, it likes going for drives.

Kirobo Mini links to a smartphone app, which sends the user’s question to a Toyota cloud service for recognition. When it’s figured out the question and the response, Kirobo speaks it back.

It’s essentially a cute way of packaging up a microphone and speaker, so I asked its inventor why not just talk to a smartphone like Apple’s Siri and OK Google.

Fuminori Kataoka, a Toyota project manager
"Children in Japan talk to their stuffed animals. They're not actually communicating but in their heart they feel they are. So people find it easier to speak to something like this than speak to a navigation system."

It does have a few other features. It will attempt to recognize people with its camera, will turn its head toward whomever is talking to it, and it can move its two arms when expressing itself. Toyota says overtime it will learn about its owner too.

Batteries give is about 2.5 hours of chat.

Sales begin this week in Tokyo and it will be available across Japan next year for ¥39,800, that’s about $392. There's no word on when or if it will be launched in other countries.
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