Toyota has unveiled a new “cuddly” robot to go on sale in Japan that the tech giant hopes will spark an “emotional connection” for those who interact with it.
The Kirobo Mini is able to blink and speak in a high-pitched, baby-like voice as well as some movement abilities.
Chief design engineer Fuminori Kataoka said: “He wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby, which hasn’t fully developed the skills to balance itself.
“This vulnerability is meant to invoke an emotional connection.”
It has been suggested the aim of the Kirobo mini is to spark maternal instincts in Japanese women, with the country having seen birthrates drop significantly in the last 50 years. Births are said to have halved in that time to around one million in a year.
It’s not the first time robotics has been used as therapeutic tool – fellow Japanese firm Intelligent System Co created Paro, a robotic baby seal that was designed to help soothe elderly sufferers of dementia.
Arguably most famously there was ASIMO, built by another car firm – Honda – with the eventual aim of becoming a full time assistant in the home for those in need.