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Toyota's companion robot goes on sale at the end of the year

The Kirobo Mini is expected to offer casual conversation and gestures for the lonely driver.
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Toyota has announced that it'll sell people its adorable Kirobo Mini "communication partner robot" from the end of this year. Would-be owners can snag one from a series of low-volume pre-sales at Toyota dealerships in Tokyo as well as Aichi Prefecture. Otherwise, they'll have to wait until 2017 for the weeny 'bots, which are designed to sit in your car's cup holders, to reach store shelves across the country. If you're wondering where you've seen this tech before, don't worry, Toyota sent one into space to hang around the ISS a while ago.

Kirobo Mini is intended to offer "companionship" to lonely drivers on long journeys, offering "casual conversation" in standard Japanese. The unit will turn its head to whoever is speaking, nod in agreement and even attempt to analyze your emotions with a built-in camera. That way, when you gripe about your terrible new boss at work, Kirobo will adjust its manner of speaking to be more sympathetic.

When the robot was initially announced, Toyota implied that Kirobo would harvest data on your driving to send back to HQ. The information, the firm said, would be used to "inform future innovations and develop transport thats in tune with the driver's mood." References to such collection have been excised from the most recent release, but it's worth bearing in mind should you want to spend 39,800 Yen ($392) before tax on one.

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