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Panasonic Launches NICOBO — A Moody Yet Empathetic Robot Pet Companion


Moody, empathetic, and cuddly — these are words that best describe Panasonic’s first robot pet, NICOBO.

Since the founding of Panasonic in 1918, the company has always been working on improving and enhancing society by advancing the culture of the world through its products and services. As a step towards this mission, the Panasonic Group has dabbled in the world of robotics.

Although one would expect that Panasonic would try creating human robots or service robots of their own, the Japanese electronic manufacturer has surprised us by launching a pet robot named NICOBO instead.

Unlike most robot pets in the market that mimic their lifelike counterparts in terms of enabling movement and features through voice commands, NICOBO sets itself apart by being a “weak robot” cat.

“We want our robot to be a roommate, rather than a tool. Therefore, we have improved the accuracy of voice recognition by taking advantage of the noise reduction technology we have developed for our AV products, so that we can communicate with the robot even without addressing it with trigger words such as, “Hey, NICOBO, do this or that”, explains by Engineer Shinya Kemi from the Smart Life Network Business Division of Panasonic.

Short of saying, NICOBO is a pet robot that essentially doesn’t do anything but wag its tail and engage in minimal baby talk yet can provide companionship for individuals looking for low-maintenance company.

Panasonic Launches NICOBO — A Moody Yet Empathetic Pet Robot Companion

Although, don’t be fooled by the lack of commands and features of NICOBO. Derived from the Japanese word “smile”, NICOBO can definitely place a smile on an owner’s face with the few tricks it has up its sleeves.

The round and cuddly NICOBO robot cat can learn to recognize its owner’s face and have the ability to respond to one’s voice and touch by wagging its tail. NICOBO even has its own feelings and moods so it may give you a sign that it wants a hug or attention now and then thus, simulating a real-life pet-to-human relationship.

For added comic relief, NICOBO can even let out a fart, minus the stench, and act embarrassed by not meeting the owner’s eye.

The project lead of NICOBO, Yoichiro Masuda, shares how this robot cat not only provides empathy and companionship for those who need it but also a look into the future of our world.

“Our ultimate aim is for people to discover more of their inner kindness and to appreciate feelings of companionship and affection. We are also seeking to normalize the relationship between humans and robots — our vision is for it to become normal for people and robots to live together in the society of the future.”.

With studies and real-life stories that prove how robot pets can help individuals, it’s not difficult to comprehend how a world where humans and robots coexist is possible.

Linda Takahashi

American-born New Yorker Linda Johnson has been fascinated with robotic machines since she was a teenager, when her father, a surgeon, would introduce to her the machines that he used to perform keyhole surgeries. This interest led her to pursue a tech degree at the University of Washington, where she met Sota Takahashi. They married and now have two children. Linda’s father developed dementia later on and was given a robot pet as a companion. She saw how much having a robot pet friend helped her father, which is what led her to create this website and advocate to spread word about robot pets and how they can help both children and the elderly.

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