Panasonic Crowdfunds $100,000 for Farting Robot Cat You Can Teach to Talk
Panasonic successfully crowdfunded around $100,000 for a limited edition farting robot cat with voice and facial recognition. Nicobo looks more like a sock puppet than a cat, alebit one full of advanced electronics, but people snapped up the only 320 that Panasonic is making almost immediately.
Nicobo is crammed with sensory devices and processors. The camera and microphones inside look and listen for its owner, and detect light levels so it can change its behavior depending on the time of day and the weather. Sensors under the outer cover detect when it is being touched and with how much pressure. The cat can rotate in a circle, blinking its eyes and wagging its tail, but can’t actually move. The cat doesn’t even purr, but the embedded AI is designed to learn a limited amount of Japanese, specifically a kind of baby talk known as katakoto made of fragmented sentences. When the AI decides to randomly express annoyance, Nicobo becomes less eloquent but more forceful in communication, letting out loud fart simulations, though happily without simulated odors. The 320 people who leaped at the chance for a farting cat robot that talks like a young child are paying about $360 for the privilege, as well as a $10 a month subscription fee for a smartphone connection and future updates. Cheaper in the long run than a real cat, but still not a cheap purchase.
Robotic friends and pets are a lot more feasible now as conversational and biometric AI has become very good at recognizing individuals and injecting dialogue with a simulated personality. The appeal of Nicobo is obvious with how fast the stock was bought up, but it’s not even the only robotic feline AI on the market right now. CR Robotics debuted a cat-faced robot named Mylo last year as an aide for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The Irish-born Mylo isn’t quite as soft as Nicobo, with the cat face looking out from a screen on top of a square white box that looks welded to a Roomba. Unlike Nicobo though, Mylo can move around on wheels and communicate in full sentences to carry out commands for making video phone calls, as well as monitor heart rate and call an ambulance if its user falls or seems to be in medical trouble. The cat face was added after the developers determined people were more comfortable with a cat face than a human or robotic image. Those who prefer a human face with their care might prefer Grace, the very realistic humanoid robot from Awakening Health. If you prefer your robots flatulent, however, you’ll have to wait until Panasonic rolls out the next version of Nicobo.