Toyota Motor Corp unveiled a doe-eyed palm-sized robot, dubbed Kirobo Mini, designed as a synthetic baby companion in Japan, where plummeting birth rates have left many women childless. “He wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby, which hasn’t fully developed the skills to balance itself,” said Fuminori Kataoka, Kirobo Mini’s chief design engineer. “This vulnerability is meant to invoke an emotional connection.”
Toyota plans to sell Kirobo Mini, which blinks its eyes and speaks with a baby-like high-pitched voice, for 39,800 yen ($392) in Japan next year. It also comes with a “cradle” that doubles as its baby seat designed to fit in car cup holders.
The Toyota baby automaton joins a growing list of companion robots, such as the upcoming Jibo, designed by robotics experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that resembles a swiveling lamp, and Paro, a robot baby seal marketed by Japanese company Intelligent System Co Ltd as a therapeutic machine to soothe elderly dementia sufferers.