From car accessory/companion to a surrogate baby. That’s a rather big leap for such a small robot. And yet that seems to be one of the new missions of the Kirobo Mini, the baby version of Toyota’s astronaut robot of the same name,sans the “Mini”. The little and, for most perhaps, cute robot that can fit inside a car cupholder is finally slated to launch in 2017, more than a year after it was first unveiled. And with it are the hopes that Japan’s population problem will soon come to an end.
Kirobo Mini is a miniature version of Kirobo, which stayed on the International Space Station for a year and a half since August 2013. Both robots were programmed to be talkative, but Mini is meant to pull at the heartstrings rather than at your patience. Initially, it was intended to provide tips and companionship to drivers and passengers, but Toyota may put the robot’s baby appearance to more than just that.
Kirobo Mini supposedly wobbles when sitting down, just like a still unsteady baby would. It’s meant to elicit some “ooohs” and “awws” from people. Now, however, it is also hoped it would trigger women’s maternal instincts enough to make them want to have full-sized, human counterparts of Kirobo. Because Japan has an aging population problem. Yeah, robots hoped to save the human populace.
Kirobo Mini is just one of the latest in a list of humanoid robots that are being put at the service of health care, most of them trying to appeal to humans’ emotional and psychological cores. It is almost in stark contrast to the image of robot overlords bent on trying to take over the world.
The Toyota Kirobo Mini is scheduled to go to market some time next year, and will carry a 39,800 yen ($392) price tag that might be heavier than the tiny robot.