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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 … Continue reading “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.”

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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.”

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About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.

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