• 10.03.16

Why did Toyota just launch a “cuddly companion” robot?

Toyota said today it will begin selling tiny robots in its dealerships throughout Japan next year to serve as “cuddly companions … always on hand for heart-touching communication.”

The device, called Kiboro Mini, connects to a smartphone using Bluetooth technology and uses a built-in camera to recognize human facial expressions, to which Toyota says its robot responds. Kiboro Mini retails for $400. Toyota says the robot can also engage in casual conversation and remember past events.

So why would a car manufacturer sell a tech-infused doll?

As cars become just as connected as smartphones, auto manufactures are eager to demonstrate “smart” features that anticipate drivers’ needs. Toyota’s Kiboro Mini is supposed to be a metaphor for its vehicles, which it wants customers to view as “irreplaceable companions.”