KOBIE and RABIE are networked robots designed by Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI). They are essentially sensor and motor arrays whose varied "emotions" are processed on a nearby PC. Because of the wireless connectivity, they deliver greater variety of response with less overhead within the little koala bear doll or creepy rabbit-Pac-Man shell that make up their bodies.

ETRI built KOBIE and RABIE as "Mental Commitment Robots,'' geared to help mentally ill people by providing psychological comfort. When you poke KOBIE the robotic koala, he rolls over and stares grumpily into your face, until he recognizes you. If you hit him once, he will be frightened, but if you hit him several times, his surprise turns to fear. "He can calculate whether you like him or not," says a head of research at ETRI.

KOBIE's target audience is the elderly, and its koala form was chosen both because it is cuddly and because koalas are known to be lazy, so KOBIE's lack of quick motor skills would be less noticed. In spite of this deficiency, he is "by far the most advanced robotic pet made in Korea," according to the the Korea Times.

ETRI's KOBIE and RABIE: Best Robot Friends Since Cartman (Video)

KOBIE's less comfortingly named brother RABIE, the world's second known networked rabbit, is aimed at children, and it uses clear emoticons to express itself, rather than more nuanced facial ticks. He also doubles as a nannycam, transmitting video of his playtime to PCs and mobile phones.

ETRI should probably work on the names, though. It's a little creepy for me to think of giving my kids RABIEs—and letting my grandma sleep with KOBIE. [The Korea Times; Akihabara News; Video from B2B Story]