Published On: Sat, Dec 3rd, 2016

Toyota Would Like To Introduce You To Its Big-Eyed Kirobo Mini Robot

Toyota Motor revealed a doe-eyed palm-sized robot, dubbed Kirobo Mini, designed as a synthetic baby companion in Japan, where the plummeting birth rates have left many women childless. The good news is that come 2017, the robot will actually be available for purchase.

It’s a smaller version of Kirobo, the robot that Toyota joint-developed and sent into space in 2013 alongside the Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese astronaut to command the International Space Station. Kirobo Mini’s ambitions are little more grounded, not aiming to be much more than a simple communication partner.

toyota-kirobo-mini

Kirobo Mini

The technology behind it’s quite simple. Audio is sent from Kirobo’s microphone to a smartphone running a companion app. The smartphone passes the audio on to a Toyota cloud service which runs voice recognition and helps to determine the appropriate response. That’s then sent back to Kirobo via the smartphone app.

This makes the robot essentially little more than a speaker and microphone in a unique form factor, so why not just build it into the dashboard and chat with it like you would with Apple’s Siri or Google Now?

Japan is already a leading user of the industrial robots. It has the second-biggest concentration after South Korea with the 314 machines per 100,000 employees, according to the International Federation of Robotics. New technology help them to better interact with the humans means robots have begun moving beyond factory floors into homes, offices, shops and hospitals.

The extent of Kirobo Mini’s capabilities is not quite clear, but it requires a smartphone connection and a monthly 300 yen subscription fee.