This Track consists of robots who have been designed with emotional comfort as a key component, more so than accurate emulation of human appearance. A recent trend is to provide a Alexa-type functionality so that the bots are both more “interactive”and also potentially more useful, rather like a cuddly Echo device. This also allows for the impression of a more complex bot without having to develop specialized software, but it does make them WiFi dependent. There are four categories within this Track: Humanoid forms; robotic forms; zoomorphic forms; pet surrogate forms
Track 2 Branch 1: Humanoid forms:
2-1-1: Bandai Primopuel doll (1999)[$N/A JTrendShop] Interactive Primopuel Doll – “Heart Motive … The popular Primopuel brand by Bandai has been known in Japan since 1999. Since that time, these dolls have become more intelligent and movable. Here, you can get the top-model of this series. The doll moves her arms up and gives a replay with a lovely voice if somebody speaks to her. Even singing a song is possible! It’s a great interactive toy! The language of the doll is originally Japanese, making this collectible so unique. Both the user and the doll can learn together from each other!” [JTrendShop]
2-1-2: Dream Supply Snuggling Ifbot (2004)[N/A] out of production since 2005(?). It isn’t clear whether this moved from prototype to full production, but it was apparently based on the same design goals as the Primopuel or Yumel dolls.
2-1-3: Takara Tomy Yumel (m)/Nerul (f) Sleep Assistance Robot (2006)[N/A-out of production] “Tomy is coming out with the Yumel, a “healing partner” with a vocabulary of 1,200 phrases that sells for 8,500 yen and is designed to keep you company. It’ll greet you when you wake up in the morning—it has six built-in sensors for keep tracking of its owner’s sleeping patterns—but the downside is that if you start raging all night or oversleeping or ignoring it or whatever the doll will ask you if you’re pushing yourself too hard. And if you treat it right? The Yumel will sing you songs and harrass you into buying it presents.” [Yumel is the central doll below].
2-1-4: Ask Amy Interactive Emotional Educational Doll [http://askamydoll.com/who/]. “Ask Amy is so much more than an adorable articulating 22-inch doll. Her life-like moving lips, blinking eyes, head movements, and interactive discussion will amaze children and promote self-esteem and empathy. Encouraging emotional and language development, Ask Amy responds to 12 verbal prompts to answer questions, provide words of inspiration, and motivates children to sing along or recite a variety of poems. She also loves to cuddle and can sit upright in a chair, on the bed, in the car, etc.”
Track 2 Branch 2: Robot forms =
2-2-1a: Robi Robot [$2290 JTrendShop] “Standing at 34 cm (13.4″) in height, Robi will be like a child in your home. No programming is required to the pre-assembled Robi, meaning he is the ideal companion for people who aren’t total tech experts but still love robots. Check out the way he can get up.
He has about 200 phrases he can say (Japanese only but still cute!) as he responds to humans using the sensors in his eyes. He will even sing and dance if you put on music. He can also act as a TV remote control, changing channels for you via his internal module. Plus see how human-like and realistic his walking movements are!”
2-2-1b: Robi Jr. Mini Robot–TakaraTomy [$366 JTrendShop] “Based on the original self-assembly Robi robot by Tomotaka Takahashi, the Robi Jr. is the cute new mini version by Takara Tomy. This little fellow is more than just a toy. He’s a household friend who can speak, sing, move his arms and head. He talks to you using around 1,000 phrases and can even understand certain expressions.
Call his name to get his attention. While he can only speak in Japanese, he offers fortune-telling, seasonal phrases, comments about the time of day, and more.
His eyes flash in different colors so you can see his mood. With his infrared sensors he can also detect where you are and turn to face you when he speaks.”
2-2-1c: Motto Nayayoshi Robi Jr. variant, TakaraTomy [$261 JTrendShop] “Motto Nayayoshi Robi Jr. stays seated but can move its head and flash its eyes in a cute way that will delight and entertain you every day. It also says different things (in Japanese) at different times of the year, acting like a friend who keeps you company.”
2-2-2: Kirobo Mini Robot-Toyota [$689 JTrendShop] “Toyota has teamed up Tomotaka Takahashi, the man behind the bestselling Robi and many other innovative robots, to create Kirobo Mini. This cute little robot is a miniature version of the Kirobo, Japan’s first robotic astronaut developed by Takahashi to accompany Koichi Wakata into space.
The palm-sized Kirobo Mini wobbles, gestures, blinks, speaks in a unique voice, and responds emotionally to you. Proving that robots can be both cute and useful, Kirobo Mini recognizes your voice and serves as your communication partner at home, work or in the car.”
Track 2 Branch 3: Zoomorphic Empathic forms:
2-3-1: Paro Seal Therapeutic Robot (2003)[$5-6000, N/A JTrend Shop] [http://www.parorobots.com/]. Developed at the same time as the Yumel doll as part of the METI Ministry project, the Paro Seal Therapeutic Robot (2003) was designed to provide an alternative to traditional live-animal therapy.
“Modeled after a baby harp seal, the Paro Robot Seal Healing Pet is one of best things we have ever sold on JapanTrendShop, not least as it is such a high quality product but also because it is so well-intentioned. Paro is a seal that is designed not simply to be a cool robotic animal, but to actually communicate with people and make their lives better.
Now Paro is available in two new colors, pink and gray. As with the white and gold model, it can move its head in multiple directions, plus its front and rear flippers. Paro’s blinking eyes give off realistic emotional facial expressions and its sensors can recognize touch, light, temperature and posture. Just stroke Paro and you will experience a robotic pet more responsive than you ever imagined, perhaps as close as humanity has come yet to a robot conscious of itself and the people around it.”
YTube= https://youtu.be/oJq5PQZHU-I?t=2; https://youtu.be/PNw4oicWmWU?t=3
2-3-2: Joy For All Companion Cat/Dog [$100-120 Amazon]. “Hasbro has developed a new toy line, called Joy For All Companion Pets, for senior citizens in need of companionship who aren’t able to care for a real animal. These robotic cats look, feel, and act pretty much like the real thing—they don’t walk, but thanks to built-in sensors, they purr and nuzzle when touched; they also meow, sleep, and roll over for belly rubs. The companion pets are available in three varieties (orange tabby, silver with white mitts, and creamy white) and retail for $100. There is also a dog version.”
YTube cat= https://youtu.be/NiyT9iXcBCo?t=3
YTube dog= https://youtu.be/tcfdI5MCja8?t=3
2-3-3: Omnibot OHaNAS Robot Pet [$275 JTrendShop] “Created by Takara Tomy as part of the Omnibot series of robots in partnership with Japanese phone carrier NTT DoCoMo, the OHaNAS is like a small sheep that speaks to you (the name means “talking”). It understands greetings and responds to friendly physical contact like stroking. It also chats to you about the weather, time of year, etc. It can be used as music player and also remembers user information. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and can even go online to look up basic questions that you want to ask. The eyes also light up in a range of colors to let you know its mood!”
2-3-4: Hug-and-Dream Micky Mouse from TakaraTomy [$60 JTrendShop]. “TakaraTomy’s first Hug and Dream sleeping robot in a Minnie Mouse design was a big hit around the world, and now here is a follow-up – not surprisingly, it’s Mickey Mouse. This doll is designed by scientists to help with an infant’s breathing as he or she sleeps. Better respiration means better dreams and a better night’s rest.
Your child will hug Mickey, who “breathes” in rhythm with them, assisting them to calm down and get into a neurologically appropriate state for sleep. The world’s most famous mouse is the ideal companion to help guide your special one to an uninterpreted slumber that will help them recharge for the activities the next day will bring.”
2-3-5: Qoobo Robotic Cat Tail Pillow (2018)[$183 JTrendShop]. “Yukai Engineering Qoobo has to be one of the most unique additions to the pantheon of Japanese robotics we’ve ever seen. Stroke the “headless cat” pillow and feel its response to your touch, which mimics the natural behavior of a cat tail. The furry contact and interactive character of the Qoobo tail will soon make it an indispensable part of your domestic life. Joining the likes of the Paro and Yume Neko Dream Cat, the Qoobo is intended as a therapeutic pet-style robot to comfort and cheer you up.”
2-3-6: Hugvie Huggable Cushion Robotic Companion [$148 JTrendShop] “Relieve stress and sleep better thanks to this “communication media” cushion from Japan, created by a special partnership of robot engineers, a futon vendor and a textile firm. Hugvie (a portmanteau of “hug” and the French word for life) is designed for young kids and grown-ups as a physical way to communicate. You place your phone or other device into the pocket in the head and then embrace it. The hug-pillow shape becomes an interactive communication media, helping to stimulate an emotional response so the user experiences another human presence even if they are alone.
Equipped with head, torso and limbs, the simple cushion is an ideal communication device for long-distance relationships! Kids could also be soothed by the sound of their mother’s voice before they sleep. Based on a robot originally developed by Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro’s Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), there are two versions in different sizes, one for kids and a regular size Hugvie for grown-ups. The cushion materials are also optimally designed to be more huggable.”
Track 2 Branch 4: Zoomorphic Pet Surrogates, not intentionally Empathic:
2-4-1: Healing Partner Dacky [$N/A JTrendShop]–TakaraTomy’s Dog variant of Yumel/Nerul companions, (2005?). New from Takara Tomy, Healing Partner Dacky is the latest in robotic pet communication. Dacky has SIX internal sensors through which he learns about you and develops a personality of his own. Stroking him on his head, back, or paw will elicit certain responses as you get to know him, and he responds with/to verbal communication as well. Develops a vocabulary of over 650 words and can talk with you (Japanese of course); sings; by being touched, carried, and talked to he develops a personality and matures; adapts to your sleep cycle.
2-4-2: Aiken Shiba-chan Robotic Dog [$N/A JTrendShop] “The Aiken Shiba-chan is a robotic version of Japan’s most famous dog, the shiba inu. He can interact with you through 85 different patterns of behavior. The design features 3 types of advanced sensors in 10 places, including the head, back, nose, and paws. The dog responds to sound, brightness, and touch. Vary the way you touch him to see how he responds, including wagging his tail. The robotic pet comes with its own collar and bone. Put the bone in his mouth to make him happy!”
2-4-3: Himitsu no Kuma-chan Cuddly Bear Robotic Companion [$N/A JTrendShop]. “Himitsu no Kuma-chan (The Secret of Kuma-chan) is a cuddly toy that can communicate in real-time. Himitsu no Kuma-chan may look like an ordinary stuff toy but he’s so much more. Thanks to his unique integrated computer technology, he will respond naturally to greetings in Japanese like “Konnichiwa” and basic questions, making this not only a cute companion but a great way to learn Japanese too. Call him by his name, Kuma-chan, and he will answer!
Available in brown, white or pink, your new “secret” robotic friend will entertain and charm you as it chatters away in Japanese. It can also play word games like Shiritori. You’ll find Kuma-chan’s conversation and responses almost too life-like, you may forget he’s not an actual person!”
2-4-4: Yume Inu Dream Dog Labrador Retriever [$N/A JTrendShop] “Continuing Sega Toys’ popular series of robotic pets, the Yume Inu Dream Dog Labrador Retriever is perfect for all ages. Enjoy the canine companionship of a pet pooch without the fuss or hassle a real animal can bring. This adorable labrador reacts when spoken to and will also bark joyfully when stroked. He may even grow sleepy if you give him lots of attention, and he will certainly love it if you give him his squeezy bone toy — even opening his mouth to take it!
Just like a real animal, the white puppy will know when he’s being ignored and will ask for attention. While away the hours at home with your new pet. The cute behavior and responsiveness of the retriever may even have you forgetting that he’s only a toy!”
2-4-5: KeiTai Wanko Interactive Puppy [$183 JTrendShop] “TakaraTomy’s Keitai Wanko is a fun interactive dog toy for kids to play with. Just put the mobile phone (keitai) near this cute puppy (wanko) and hear him get excited! The pooch even has a biscuit which he will “eat” audibly when you give it to him.
The Wanko pet can make over 300 different sound effects, all produced by how you interact with him with the two props, meaning kids will never tire of the dog. Just like a real pet only without the hassle or mess! Choose between a pink puppy for girls or a brown poodle for boys.”
2-4-6: Sakadachi Lucky Robotic Puppy [$108 JTrendShop] “You’ve never had a pet, or a toy, like this. The Sakadachi Lucky Puppy from Sega responds to 13 different voice commands – not only the basics like “come” and “lie down,” but also “sing” and “headstand.” The headstand is Sakadachi Lucky’s signature move, as sakadachi is the Japanese word for “headstand.” This clever toy dog can bark Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The Sakadachi Lucky Puppy is part of Sega’s sell-out line of toys that employ modern voice recognition and robotics without sacrificing the cute and cuddly factor. Case in point: Lucky comes with a fuzzy white coat with colorful circus star decorations, a bright pink leash, and hours of fun and wonder in store!”
2-4-7: Yume Neko Dream Cat Robotic Pet [$252 JTrendShop] “The best selling Sega’s series of Yume Neko robotic pets continues with this new and improved version of the original feline. The Yume Neko Dream Cat is just like a real animal, interacting with you and able to sense when you are near. This pet makes sounds in response to your behavior and adores it when you use the included comb to stroke its fur. The Yume Neko Dream Cat opens and closes its mouth, blinks its eyes, and moves its ears. It is fitted with sensors in its head, cheeks, stomach, and back that can detect when it is touched. Just don’t grab its tail or it will get angry!”