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Toyota Launches Tiny Talking Robot and Nobody Knows Why

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Kirobo Mini

Photo: © Toyota

Because anime exists, we already expect weird things to come out of Japan; still, we weren’t expecting Toyota—the biggest manufacturer of automobiles in the world—to release a tiny talking robot for god knows what reason.

The robot is called Kirobo Mini and is about four inches tall, which means it fits in your hand and will probably get chewed on by the dog. It is based on the larger Kirobo robot that Toyota launched a few years ago and that talked to Commander Koichi Wakata at the International Space Station.

Despite the Mini being much smaller than the original 13.4-inch version, Toyota managed to pack a lot of technology in the thing, including a camera that allows it to recognize your facial expressions.

It will turn its head toward you when engaging in conversation and use that facial recognition software to adjust its gestures and tone, which means it’s already more socially adept than some real human beings. It also uses information obtained from connected car services, like your vehicle’s location, to toss a few personalized comments your way, such as “That was a long drive. Good job.”

Toyota says in its press release that it hopes Kirobo Mini will “contribute to making life and society more abundant” through its human-like interactions and overall adorable-ness. We take this to mean that Toyota is concerned about the dwindling birthrates in Japan and that, perhaps, Kirobo’s childlike cuteness will motivate people to take that step toward getting actual children. Of course, there’s always the possibility that they’ll simply replace children with kind, cheap robots that never cry, need food, or resent them for being a human being that make occasional parenting mistakes.

Kirobo Mini will be available for purchase across Japanese dealers in 2017 for about $391. We don’t know if it will be sold anywhere else, but we hope it will arrive to the United States at some point—it would certainly beat having a hula doll on the dashboard.

Source: Toyota