Teleworking, social distancing, and staying at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic have increased the loneliness of people who live alone. And if you are not ready for the responsibilities of a dog or a cat in your residence, a companion robot can be helpful.
Panasonic has introduced Nicobo, a pet robot that helps you make teleworking or studying more bearable when you are alone at home. Developed in collaboration with robotics researchers from the Toyohashi University of Technology Michio Oka Laboratory, the Nicobo looks a bit like a cat that got itself stuck in a sock.
The robot can recognize faces using a camera and listen and respond to your voice via its directional microphones. It cannot do more than wiggle its head and its tail and blink its unnervingly digital eyes. Nicobo can even fart, just like a real animal! It also has touch sensors, so it’s aware when you’re touching or hugging it.
Interestingly, Nicobo can also talk. It only knows a single word at first, but eventually, it will be able to speak in full Japanese sentences in some kind of baby-like language. You will never have a long conversation with Nicobo, but its crude mutterings will help you feel that it is really attentive and listening to your feelings, even though it can do nothing about them. Sometimes this is all a human needs.
As Gizmodo reports, Panasonic plans to manufacture only 320 Nicobo with a price tag of around $360. And no, if you’re interested, you cannot buy it. Pre-orders through Japan’s crowdfunding platform have already sold out in just 6 hours, with first deliveries expected in March next year. The buyers will need to pay around $10 a month to get features like smartphone pairing and updates.