Toyota has developed a talking robot companion designed to keep motorists company during trips.
Described by Toyota Motors as “a miniature communication partner developed to provide companionship,” the tiny robot fits nicely in any car’s cup holder.
According to CNN, the 4-inch device called Kirobo Mini is equipped with advanced AI that allows it to acknowledge and respond to its owner’s facial expressions and even engage in conversations. Toyota said that it is hoping Kirobo Mini will “contribute to making life and society more abundant.”
In Toyota’s demo video, the robot is shown asking a woman’s sad expression: “Oh no, what has happened?”
The device, which comes equipped with cameras, speakers and Bluetooth, will be available for pre-order later this year in Japan, while shipping is scheduled for next year.
According to the Verge, the robot will cost 39,800 yen (around $400) and will require a smartphone connection that will cost an additional monthly 300 yen ($3) subscription fee.
The robot companion will initially be sold through car dealerships in Tokyo and Aichi, before gradually making it available to the rest of Japan. There are no announced plans of selling the robot outside of the country as of press time.
Toyota said that its AI can also record information, allowing it to remember its companion’s likes and dislikes, and the journeys that they have traveled together. Kirobo will also provide feedback on the driver’s ability — all from a cup holder. The device can also be connected to other similar gadgets at home.
Japan has been pushing for such technology as an aid to the country’s aging population and workforce.