This little bot could be your new driving companion.

Japanese consumers will soon be able to buy a robot while at their local Toyota dealer shopping for a Prius. The automaker will start taking pre-orders for its adorable (and a little creepy) Kirobo Mini this winter, and deliveries will begin in 2017. The tiny bot can recognize emotions on someone’s face and even remember past events. Prices start at 39,800 yen ($393 at current exchange rates), plus a 300-yen ($2.96) monthly fee for access to extra applications.

At about 4 inches (10 centimeters) tall when seated, the Kirobo Mini is too small to help with household chores. In fact, it can’t walk at all. Instead, Toyota refers to the bot as a “communication partner” that provides owners with companionship. The head uses facial tracking so that the eyes follow a person, and the tech is smart enough to engage in casual conversations.

Toyota Kirobo
Toyota Kirobo
Toyota Kirobo

The Kirobo Mini also remembers past experiences with its owner. It can even interface with some Toyota vehicles for even more specific messages. Some might border on being a little too personal, though. For example, when returning to your house the bot can say, “Welcome home! A warm bath is waiting," according to Toyota. There’s something unnerving about this seemingly intelligent object telling you to take a bath.

There’s an equally disconcerting example in the videos below. When exiting the vehicle, Kirobo yells in a high-pitched voice, “Don’t leave me here.” The desperate tone is very alarming.

Right now Kirobo only understands Japanese, but Toyota is clear that the bot is testing future innovations in human-machine interface. One day, this tech could be part of a vehicle’s infotainment system. It would remember the owner’s favorite places to go and be able to navigate via simple, spoken directions. We hope a Camry never tells us to go inside and take a bath, though.  Check out the videos below to get a better idea of Kirobo’s capabilities.



Source: Toyota

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