This year was dismal for home robots, but that’s not deterring Japanese startup Groove X from announcing the Lovot, an adorable and cuddly robot designed to manipulate your emotions.
I mean, look at this guy. It looks like it came straight from a Hayao Miyazaki film, a cross between a Minion and a seal, or a long lost hedgehog Pokemon. The “sensor horn” atop its head contains a light sensor, a 180-degree camera, a microphone, and a thermographic camera. That’s so it can detect its owners in a room and go bug them for hugs, as well as deliver live feeds. Meanwhile, there are touch sensors in its body and the pupils in its eyes can dilate thanks to a six-layered eye display. It makes noises somewhere between a meow and chirp. Its stubby little wings flap around like a porky penguin. If you don’t want to hug this little fella, you might be dead inside.
But other than being cute, this robot literally doesn’t do anything else. The whole purpose of the robot is to loaf around in your home and provide a sense of comfort, much like a pet that doesn’t poop. In its press release, Groove X claims, “The Lovot is not a useful robot that will do tasks for human begins. It begs for attention and gets in the way of those it lives with, and at times will shy away from people it does not know. It is adorable just by being there.”
It’s an interesting strategy when you consider how Kuri, Jibo, and even Sphero’s BB-8 all bit the dust this year despite their adorableness. Their exorbitant price tags just didn’t sit well with consumers when faced with their extremely limited functionality. That said, Japan has had more success with expensive-yet-cute home bots—Sony’s Aibo was relaunched in 2017 and its first iteration was so beloved that owners even held funerals for them once support was discontinued.
Currently, the Lovot is available for preorder on Groove X’s site and retails for 598,000 yen ($5,300) for a pair. They’re expected to ship in late 2019, while single orders will be available for 349,000 yen ($3,100) in 2020.