Toyota is releasing a new, smaller version of Kirobo – the robot which spent 18 months at the International Space Station for human-robot relation research purposes – which can fit in a car’s cup holder and keep drivers and passengers company.
Kirobo Mini is four inches tall, can maintain eye contact, talk, and gesticulate. This is due to the camera built into its face, which even ensures Kirobo is able to regulate its tone depending on the mood of the human it’s talking to.
What’s the point? It is meant to engage the driver, rather than to distract, keeping them alert during journeys. It allegedly learns the habits of its owner and is able to comment on their driving. Who wouldn’t want that?
Toyota is investing huge amounts of money in robotics and autonomous car over the next few years, all for the benefit of us humans. Kirobo will cost around $393 when it goes on sale next year, plus a monthly $3 extra to use the companion app, but will only be available in Japan to begin with.