Driving unaccompanied could get monotonous which is why Toyota has designed a small robot that will serve as a virtual companion for all the lonely drivers.
Kirobo Mini – is what the developers prefer to call this robot and it has been designed to listen and respond to chat with the individuals in the car. Kirobo Mini is really small measuring just 10 centimetres and can be carted around easily.
A really simple technology governs the working of this robot. Audio is transmitted from the robots microphone to a smartphone on an installed and running companion app. The audio is passed to one of the cloud services of Toyota which runs the voice recognition and tries to get a proper answer which is sent back to the robot through the smartphone app.
Fuminori Kataoka, who designed the system and is one of the project managers in Toyota, explains that just like the children open their heart out to their stuffed toys which are actually not communication but in their hearts they feel so, in the same way, people would prefer conversing with something like Kirobo rather than speaking to a navigation system.
There are more in Kirobo than just a small machine – it turns its head when spoken to and is able to move its arms while expressing itself.
There’s a built-in camera which is meant to recognize an individual’s facial expression to understand their mood. People were all smiling when they interacted with Kirobo during its unveiling at the Ceatac Electronics Show, Tokyo.
Kirobo has also been developed to learn about its owner through their conversations and understand his or her personal favourites. If linked with the IT system of a car it will also comprehend the journey and make comments about it.
Kirobo will be able to chat with you for 2.5 hours on batteries.
The cute robot has been priced at ¥39,800 ($392) with an additional monthly charge of ¥300($45) to use the Toyota cloud service.