The Toyota Motor Corp. (TYO:7203) has long-term plans of diversifying so that the business doesn’t have to depend entirely on the sale of their automobiles. To achieve this, the company has come out with a companion robot for homes and childless women. Named, Kirobo Mini, the robot is said to have the intelligence of a 5-year-old.
However, this isn’t the first time Toyota is trying something else. Apart from the automobiles, Toyota also makes marine products, houses, and grass that grow in harsh climates.
The Kirobo Mini Robot
Kirobo Mini is a 10-centimeter talking robot that goes on sale in Japan soon. It has been priced at $392 or ¥39,800. Thanks to its in-built sensors, the robot can recognize facial expressions. It can learn phrases as well. This is the company’s first robot for homes. The robot will be made in association with Vaio, which was with Sony formerly. It will be made at the plant in Nagano, where the Aibo robotic dog was also produced.
Kirobo Mini is palm-sized and can be carried around easily. The robot wears red shoes and has big eyes. When in cars, the robot asks the driver to drive safely by saying “Oops!” if the brake is pressed suddenly. If you leave it in the vehicle, the robot will say “Don’t leave me behind”.
Toyota’s Ventures into Robotics
Japan’s largest automaker has been interested in artificial intelligence for a while now. Toyota (TYO:7203) has poached several robotics experts from around the world, basically to fight incursions in the car industry by Apple, Google, and others.
But now, the company has found a new way to use these resources. They have to, because at home, Toyota’s market is shrinking due to a declining population. The young generation has lost interest in purchasing cars, so the sales figures are below expectations. It is natural that the business will want a second income source.
General Manager of the Kirobo project, Fuminori Kataoka, says, “This (product) may help people get interested or fond of Toyota, or help in connecting with our customers who have let go of Toyota vehicles”.
This will, of course, not be the first companion robot in Japan. There is Fujisoft’s Palro, which looks like a humanoid and sings and dances. There is also SoftBank’s Pepper. However, the demand for robots has largely remained limited in the country.