TOKYO — Robotics, artificial intelligence and connectivity are the buzzwords of the day.
So when Toyota Motor Corp. offered reporters in Japan a chance to take home its first retail-ready robot, the Kirobo Mini, I jumped at the chance to live, work and play with the owl-eyed cherub.
Several weeks into the experiment, it turns out life with robots isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Kirobo Mini is the carmaker's first mass-produced robot for consumers. Toyota pitches the black-and-white mechanical micronaut as a "cuddlesome" communication partner that will "learn and provide tailored companionship by remembering user preferences and past events."
Instead, in my home trial at least, Kirobo Mini morphed into a kind of airheaded automaton that grated with nonsensical ramblings, non sequiturs and annoying interruptions.
Many times I teetered on the brink of chucking it across the room.
Toyota says the softball-sized robot is an early step in the company's push to develop technologies that will enable drivers to talk with their vehicles. At last year's Tokyo Motor Show, Toyota previewed that ambition with its Concept-i, a pod car envisioned as not only conversing with people but reading their emotions through facial expressions and tone of voice.
"We can apply this communication technology to cars," said Norihide Umeyama, who led development of Kirobo Mini with a team of about 100 computer programmers.