Toyota is getting ready to sell its first robot through dealerships next year. The Kirobo is described as a “travel companion” that helps its owner become a better driver.
Kirobo — a mash-up of the Japanese word for “hope” and “robot” — connects to devices via Bluetooth via an app, and can adjust its speech and behavior by reading the emotions of its owner. It engages in conversation and helps its owner with simple tasks and reminders. Over time, its interactions will be tailored to its owner as it remembers past interactions and events.
Kirobo measures only 4 inches in its normal seated position and fits in the palm of a human hand. It weighs just 0.40 pounds. It has two large round eyes, no nose, and a smiling mouth. It looks as if it’s wearing a small space suit and helmet, with the Toyota logo embedded in its chest.
When taking a long trip, Kirobo can engage in conversation with its owner to keep him or her awake, help them stay focused, or issue reminders. Toyota hopes, however, that ultimately information gathered and algorithms developed with Kirobo can be incorporated directly into cars to make human-machine interface more intuitive. A previous version of Kirobo accompanied a Japanese astronaut to the International Space Station.
Kirobo goes on sale in Toyota dealers in Japan in 2017 and will cost about $390.