Toyota Launches A 'Real-Life Baby' Robot That Will Be A Companion to Childless Women And The Elderly

Toyota Launches A 'Real-Life Baby' Robot That Will Be A Companion to Childless Women And The Elderly

A baby robot has been unveiled by a car manufacturer in Japan and is aimed at childless women and its elderly population.

Toyota will start selling the KIROBO mini next year and the palm-sized gadget will even move like a real-life baby, with a distinct wobble of someone who hasn't learnt to balance properly.

Project manager and engineer Fuminori Kataoka says KIROBO mini isn't targeting a specific demographic but its sale comes at a time when official data showed that Japan has 34.6 million people aged 65 and older.

It is the equivalent of 27.3 per cent of the population and the highest proportion among advanced nation.

In Japan, companion robots have already proved popular, with the Sony subsidiary VAIO Corp producing a companion dog robot called AIBO.

In 1999 at its launch 3,000 AIBO robots were sold within 20 minutes in Japan, with another 2,000 sold within four days in the U.S according to the Sony AIBO tribute website. The KIROBO was made in the same factor as the successful AIBO and is said to have the same intelligence as a five-year-old child.

Mr Kataoka said: “He wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby, which hasn’t fully developed the skills to balance itself.

"I think working together with people who have in the past worked on AIBO means we're moving in the same trajectory.

"When I talked to VAIO (Sony's former subsidiary, now an independent company under Japan Industrial Partners), they were very keen on doing this project with us.

"Some people see their cars as their partners, others only see it as a mode of transportation.

"I prefer to create the former, so I think I have the same attitude towards this (Kirobo Mini)," he said. The 10 centimetre and 183 gram robot can have basic conversations for about two and a half hours, after being charged for about three hours.

During a demonstration to the media, KIROBO mini responded to questions such as "Can you sing?" and "When is your birthday?", although at times it failed to give coherent answers.

KIROBO mini will also detect a person's presence, turning its head towards the person and use facial recognition to start conversations.

The conversations, along with where KIROBO mini is taken to, are recorded as data at multiple Toyota centre servers.

The robot will go on pre-sale this winter, for 39,800 yen, about £300, with a monthly fee of 300 yen -about £2.20 - for dedicated applications at Toyota vehicle dealers in Tokyo.