A Toyoto Robot Companion for the Car

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Toyota unveils an unusual auto gadget promising to provide company on lonely drives-- the Kirobo Mini, a smartphone-connected robot small enough to sit in the cup holder.

Kurobo MiniThe Kirobo Mini is a miniature version of Kirobo, the Toyota-developed robot that was sent to space in 2013 together with Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese astronaut to command the International Space Station. Standing all of 10cm tall, the Kirobo Mini can talk to users in a cutesy high-pitched voice, blink its oversized eyes, make gestures with its stubby arms and legs and supposedly respond to emotions.

"He wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby, which hasn't fully developed the skills to balance itself," chief design engineer Fuminori Kataoka tells Reuters. "This vulnerability is meant to invoke an emotional connection."

Little more is known about the capabilities of the little robot, other than the requirement of a smartphone connection and a monthly subscription fee. However, the Toyota website appears to have high hopes for the little guy, claiming it can "help driving become a physically and emotionally transformative experience" by learning about driver behaviour and emotions.

We expect to learn more about Kirobo Mini once it shows up at next week's CEATEC trade show in Tokyo.

Watch Toyota Kirobo Mini Concept Movie

Go Toyoto Kirobo Mini

Go Toyoto Unveils Robot Baby (Reuters)