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

Be part of something big

Toyota Kirobo Robot

Hide press releaseShow press release

Toyota to Launch Sales of 'Kirobo Mini'
Presales of Compact Communication Partner to Start at Tokyo and Aichi Car Dealers This Winter
October 03, 2016
What Kirobo Mini can do:
Engage in casual conversation, backed by gestures and the ability to respond to user emotions
Grow and provide tailored companionship by remembering user preferences and past events
Be taken just about anywhere, with its fit-in-the-palm size and seated height of only 10cm
Enhance its conversational ability using information from the vehicle and home
Toyota City, Japan, October 3, 2016 --Toyota Motor Corporation plans to launch sales of its compact and cuddlesome "Kirobo Mini" communication partner through Toyota vehicle dealers across Japan in 2017. The nationwide rollout will be preceded by presales at designated dealers in Tokyo and Aichi Prefecture this winter, for which advanced orders will be taken online. Kiboro Mini is tentatively priced at 39,800 yen (excluding tax).
Kirobo Mini is a miniature communication partner developed to provide companionship. It fits in the palm of the hand and is only 10cm high when seated. It turns its head toward the person speaking and engages in casual conversation*1 while moving its head and hands. Its compact size means it can be taken just about anywhere, helping it to fulfill its role as a cuddly companion always on hand for heart-touching communication.

Kiboro Mini's range of gestures and conversation abilities are mainly made possible by connecting Kirobo Mini via Bluetooth®*2 to smartphones installed with a dedicated app. A built-in camera enables Kirobo Mini to recognize people's facial expressions, through which it tries to detect their emotions so that it can accordingly adjust its manner of speaking and moving. Kirobo Mini can also converse based on information drawn from the vehicle or home.

TMC has been aiming to create automobiles that exceed customer expectations and that customers view as "irreplaceable companions". In a similar connection, Kiboro Mini is a manifestation of the Toyota Heart Project, which aims to develop a distinctly humanlike interaction between man and machine in a format different from automobiles based on the same fundamental concept of "Inspiring the Heart, Inspiring You", which Toyota applies to its automobile manufacturing.

By providing people opportunities to live with Kirobo Mini, Toyota hopes to contribute to making life and society more abundant.

Kirobo Mini will be on display at the IT and electronics exhibition "CEATEC*3 JAPAN 2016 'Connecting Society, Creating the Future'" to be held at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture from October 4 to October 7. Visitors will be able to experience communicating with Kirobo Mini.
*1Using standard Japanese

*2Bluetooth® is a registered trademark of Bluetooth SIG, Inc.

*3Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies
Outline of Kirobo Mini

Capabilities

Kirobo Mini can
Engage in casual conversation, backed by gestures and the ability to respond to user emotions
Kirobo Mini converses while understanding what is being said to it, as well as interprets the facial expressions of the speaker. It adjusts its gestures and tone of voice to match the conversation, and, moreover, makes communication more meaningful by blinking and looking at the person speaking.
Grow and provide tailored companionship by remembering user preferences and past events
Kirobo Mini remembers user likes and dislikes and shared travels. It is able to gradually adjust its points of conversation to make them more suitable for the user.
Be taken just about anywhere, with its fit-in-the-palm size and seated height of only 10cm
Kirobo Mini fits in the palm of the hand and is only 10cm high when seated. Its compact size means it can be enjoyed in one's home, car or elsewhere.
Enhance its conversational ability using information from the vehicle and home
Based on information about the vehicle or home obtained through connected services, Kirobo Mini can provide more-caring comments, such as: "That was a long drive. Good job." or "Welcome home! A warm bath is waiting."*
*Function scheduled to be available for vehicles that can use the Kirobo Mini-compatible T-Connect service and through the TSC-HEMS service provided by Toyota Home Corporation.
To see video of Kirobo Mini in action, go to: http://newsroom.toyota.co.jp/en/detail/13786975/

Specifications
Seated height/weight
10cm/183g
Continuous communication time
Approximately 2.5 hours
Battery charging time
Approximately 3 hours
Production Plant
VAIO Corporation*
*Main business: Personal computers; located in Azumino City, Nagano Prefecture
Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price
Tentative price: 39,800 (excluding tax) (Monthly fee of approximately 300 yen for use of dedicated app.)