While some car dealerships are willing to sell die-cast models, clothing accessories and other stuff you really don’t need (but probably look cool), Toyota took it up a notch and it’s offering a… friend.
It’s called the Kirobo Mini, and the Japanese car manufacturer describes it as a miniature communications partner.
Basically, the gizmo can keep customers company by engaging in casual conversation. Thanks to an integrated video camera, it can also track the person speaking, perform various gestures, remember user preferences and past events – offering a tailored, unique experience for each individual – and respond to user emotions by adjusting its gestures and tone of voice to match the conversation
But before descending into the uncanny valley and imagine a Skynet-type robot revolution, you should know that in order to perform all these things, the Kirobo must connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone installed with a dedicated app.
Thanks to its small dimensions, the Kirobo Mini can be taken everywhere, providing conversations based on information drawn from the vehicle or other visited places.
The Kirobo Mini is based on Japan’s robot astronaut Kirobo, and will be sold exclusively in Japan for ¥39,800 ($392).
According to the Financial Times, Japan’s car market is shrinking due to a decline in population, aging drivers, and young individuals with no interest in owning cars. That’s why Toyota is confronting the issue by venturing outside the automotive realm in order to attract new customers.
“This (product) may help people get interested or fond of Toyota, or help in connecting with our customers who have let go of Toyota vehicles,” said Fuminori Kataoka, general manager in charge of the Kirobo project.