Robovie MR2 is a product of Japan's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute, and he's designed to be a desk-bound device, mainly: Standing just 30cm tall and weighing a mere 2-kg he'd possibly come a-cropper if he were to roam around at floor-level. He's a sort of advanced desk toy then, perhaps in the mold of the good old Nabaztag—and he can do some of the same sorts of things. Docked with an iPod Touch, the MR2 can gather "worldwide information" from the Net, and then relate it to you by means of gestures or speech—which does indeed sound like the skills of the famous Internet-enabled rabbit.
But MR2's a lot smarter than Nabaztag, and he even comes with a compact Web cam, which could enable him to act as a remotely monitored home intrusion detector. Better yet, you can actually control the little robogeezer either by a wireless game pad or over the Internet. The possible uses are endless: If ATR enabled some sort of Skype interactivity inside his code, he could even act as a tiny robotic emissary, a foot-tall avatar if you will, to enable you to roam your home and natter to your family even while you're away on a business trip.
In fact, thinking about it, since I can't get a Serge from Caprica yet, I want an MR2. Very badly. And forget the robot's diminutive size: In my future wired-up e-home, I may even let Robovie potter about the house freely, greeting guests and spouting my emails in his tinny little voice—though he'll have to be brave and battle for floorspace with the Scooba and the Roomba.
The only drawback to this plan is that ATR is still to decide whether to commercialize the MR2 yet. But in a World where Sony's stopped selling its adorable Aibos, the Pleo robo-dinosaur is all but extinct, and Violet (the company behind Nabaztag) has filed for bankruptcy, we're sadly devoid of smart, cute robot pets—so ATR just have to sell MR2, don't they?
To keep up with this news, robotically read-aloud or otherwise, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter. That QR code on the left will take you to my Twitter feed too.