Toyota is Selling a Robot in Japan That Wants to be Your Friend

Toyota and dealers in Japan will begin selling the Kirobo Mini in 2017.

The Japanese automaker calls the Kirobo Mini a “compact and cuddlesome” communication partner and is tentatively priced at 39,800 yen ($385) excluding taxes. Developed to provide companionship, the little robot fits in the palm of the hand and is only 3.93 inches (10 cm) when seated. It is capable of turning its head toward the person speaking and engages in casual conversation with the user while moving its head and hands.

The Kirobo Mini’s range of gestures and conversation abilities are made possible by connecting it via Bluetooth to smartphones installed with a dedicated app. There’s also a built-in camera that allows it to recognize people’s facial expressions, helping it try to detect their emotions so that it can adjust its manner of speaking and moving accordingly.

Toyota says the Kirobo Mini can also enhance its conversational ability by using information gathered from a vehicle or a 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.’”

Watch a video on Toyota’s Kirobo Mini below.

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