Toyota is Releasing a Robotic Companion for Long Car Rides
At release, the robot can carry out conversations exclusively in Japanese. Hand gestures, facial expression, and even the tone of speaking changes according to the mood of the conversation. Aside from listening, a built-in camera also lets the Kirobo Mini look at who it is talking to and identify people’s facial expressions so it can respond accordingly.
Because of the robot’s diminutive size, most of the processing happens elsewhere. The Kirobo requires pairing with a smartphone via Bluetooth to work. A dedicated cloud service for the Kirobo by Toyota is also required, which costs an additional $3 a month. The robot itself costs $387.
As of writing, the Kirobo Mini will only be available in Japan, for sale at select car dealerships.
Aside from just providing small talk, the Kirobo Mini wants to literally give a humanoid face to the future home. The robot can comment about your driving and help you navigate. Just as you pull up the driveway, the robot can remind you that a hot bath is running for you and whatever smart home appliances are activated upon your arrival.Algorithms that run the robot are self-learning, making it respond better with further use. It also can make memories, is able to log places visited and other information such as words the user has said to use if ever they become relevant again. Aside from just being a chatterbox, Toyota has a bigger purpose for the robot. The official Kirobo Mini website reads:
“Imagine how driving would change if Kirobo Mini’s technology was integrated into Toyota vehicles: we could assimilate hours of data to better the everyday lives of drivers all over the world, informing future innovations and developing transport that’s in tune with the driver’s mood, suggesting places to visit, routes to travel and music to listen to.”