We all like pets, but frankly, they are a big responsibility. If you don’t have the time or if you’re not ready to take up the onus just yet, Panasonic has developed a playful cat-like robot called Nicobo. The companion robot is symbolically a cat, but it is reminiscent of a stuffed sock that looks more like a bloated fish. That said, Nicobo is co-developed with robotics researchers from Toyohashi University of Technology Michio Oka Laboratory and is all about providing comforting companionship.
The pet robot is really interactive and designed to keep one entertained without the need for a real pet. To mimic a pet, the robot can wink its eyes, wag its tail in appreciation, and when the time is not as it would want, Nicobo can release a fart! Not too inquisitive about taking a walk like any other pet, the Panasonic robot won’t fetch for you or come to you when you call; however, it will turn from side to side or look up and down courtesy of its moving base somewhere in the belly.
For more interactive behavior, Nicobo is packed in with touch sensors to know when it is being touched or hugged; multi-directional microphones to recognize your voice; a camera for face recognition; and a light sensor so it can nap in sunlight. Interestingly, the cat-like robot can mimic what you say and speak back in broken sentences, known in Japan as “katakoto”. So it won’t have a complete conversation, but you can be assured it’s listening – an assurance one desires when you don’t have someone to talk for instance. Only 320 units for $360 each will be made initially, so getting your hands on one of these little robots will not be easy.