Tech: fresh thinking - Toyota's in-car robot

Published: 21 October 2016

► We take a look at Toyota's new robot
► A toy that lives in your cupholder?
► Kirobo’s job is to cheer you up 

What’s the big idea?

Kirobo is an experiment in human/robot interaction, featuring voice and facial recognition software developed by Toyota. He actually started life as a robot astronaut, and was sent to the international space station to cheer up Japanese station commander Koichi Wakata. Now he’s planning to try to cheer you up too, while you’re stuck in traffic. 

Why does Toyota think we need cheering up?

You’re driving a Toyota, for a start. More crucially, studies have shown that drivers in a bad mood drive too fast, too close to the car in front and have more accidents.

How does Kirobo plan to overcome that?

He has a facial recognition camera just above one of his eyes, and can identify expressions, so if you’re frowning he’ll try to engage you in a bit of helium-voiced chat. He can understand speech (as long as you’re Japanese) and has a database of phrases.

So, will Kirobo be standard on the next Auris? 

Sadly not, but he’s part of a serious experiment to test how your car could interact with you. He may be able to interact with your sat-nav and music too. If you haven’t already hurled him out of the window, that is.  

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By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine