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Toyota's Kirobo Mini Companion Robot To Sell For $400 (digitaltrends.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Three years ago a small robot called Kirobo blasted into space, headed for the International Space Station. When it arrived, the 34-cm-tall, Toyota-made android became best buddies with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, accompanying him around the station, engaging in polite conversation, and even showing emotion according to the subject matter. Following Kirobo's successful space jaunt, the car company decided to back the development of a smaller version of the already small robot, calling it -- rather appropriately -- Kirobo Mini. It unveiled the diminutive droid at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. Toyota announced on Monday that Kirobo Mini will go on sale in Japan next year for 39,800 yen (about $390), though a 300-yen (about $2.95) monthly subscription fee will also be necessary. Besides the robot itself, you'll also receive a "cradle" that's designed to fit inside a car's cup holder, ensuring that the robot travels in style wherever you take it. An ad (video) released by Toyota over the weekend shows Kirobo Mini hanging out with families, couples, the elderly, singletons, and students, with everyone visibly enthralled by its ability to say the right thing at the right time. However, Kirobo Mini's specific functionality, and the extent to which it'll be able to interact with humans, is yet to be revealed.
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Toyota's Kirobo Mini Companion Robot To Sell For $400

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  • by chrism238 ( 657741 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @04:41AM (#53009505)
    Although this one has to be fed with money.
  • Upgrades (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pr0nbot ( 313417 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @05:55AM (#53009677)

    I wonder what the emotional response to upgrading to a newer version will be.

    If you feel nothing more than when you upgrade your phone, what level of emotional attachment can the robot really have achieved? On the other hand if you're so attached that you don't want to upgrade, there's no long term business model.

    Perhaps the answer will be to treat upgrades as body transplants, so the "personality" or your robot is simply moved to a new shell.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > I wonder what the emotional response to upgrading to a newer version will be.

      pretend that it's growing up.

      how much will it cost to prevent it acting like a surly teenager?

    • Re:Upgrades (Score:4, Funny)

      by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Tuesday October 04, 2016 @07:16AM (#53009911)
      I think society will have totally gone down the pan when we start trying to upgrade people...

      Oh not wait my GF has been trying to do that to me for years

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      I wonder what the emotional response to upgrading to a newer version will be.

      If you feel nothing more than when you upgrade your phone, what level of emotional attachment can the robot really have achieved? On the other hand if you're so attached that you don't want to upgrade, there's no long term business model.

      Perhaps the answer will be to treat upgrades as body transplants, so the "personality" or your robot is simply moved to a new shell.

      Given Japanese culture, I suspect quite a bit.

      Given shrines were [theguardian.com]

  • Man, what IS it with the Japanese and robots? That video is profoundly creepy. Every culture looks weird from the outside I guess. Gun ownership looks weird if you weren't born in the US. Telling your mini creepy clown robot your deepest emotions looks weird if you weren't born in Japan.
  • I don't pay subscriptions for the robots I buy. They also don't connect to a data sucking server.
    • by Falos ( 2905315 )
      Instant turn-off for me, although I suppose always-online and forced updates might help alleviate another concern: The gamer in me knows it takes very little time for a sound bite to get repetitive, and without a pile of dynamic routines (in technical and lay meanings) the little guy would get tedious fast. Fresh content would help.

      If they bother. Probably just take my money and the dumps of "metrics".
  • If I'm paying $400 for a robot it better be armed to the teeth to attack invaders, or know how to operate a vacuum cleaner and a dishwasher.

    I'm not paying $400 for a robot I have to carry around myself that doesn't actually do anything but look cute. I can buy a Troll doll for $5 if that were my goal.

  • You just KNOW that the price/subscription/functionality has this dead before it hits the shelves. Then again, haven't Japanese guys been known to marry video game characters?
    • I don't think it does. There's plenty of Japanese with disposable income and $400 is not very much in the long run. In a world where a bicycle with just one speed can cost $3000 or more, $400 for a little robot is not very much. The subscription fee seems even more reasonable than the buy-in price. Of course, I wouldn't own any robot that phoned home. That's just too dangerous a thing to have in my home.

      • A $3000 bicycle (that's a pretty high end bike at that price) could last you for decades. A $400 tamagochi upgrade will probably leave you bored after 2 or 3 months and if it doesn't, you'll probably want to buy the new model next year for another $400.

  • And we mustn’t forget Sharp’s remarkable RoBoHon smartphone. The tiny robot, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Kirobo Mini, also behaves like your personal pal (or more accurately, assistant), reading out your phone messages and alerts, waking you up in the morning, and making and placing calls.

    Ah, yes. Your "plastic pal who's fun to be with".

  • ...of electric sheep with Kirobo Mini pets?
  • Impressive that it can hang out with singletons! Hopefully their data structures are thread-safe, in case you get multiple mini robots communicating with the same singleton.

  • ...for "Robot and Frank" [wikipedia.org], about what the elderly might do with robots and the resulting emotional attachments.
  • So, does that make it anything like the Samsung "smart" TVs that Samsung itself announces should not be present while having private conversations, because reasons?

    They are all Orwell's telescreens, and we love them, when we should fear them.

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