Launched as part of a Kickstarter campaign from Vanguard Industries that went live earlier this week, Moflin looks to follow in the steps of Sony’s Aibo or other robo-pets like Qoobo. However, instead of simply a disembodied tail attached to a fluffy base like Qoobo, Moflin apparently uses AI to have “emotional capabilities” meant to more accurately mimic real pets, so that it can express feelings and potentially even serve as a therapeutic aid.
In order to make that happen, Vanguard Industries said it created its own Emotion AI tech that allows Moflin’s feelings to react and evolve over time based on contact with humans. Individual Moflins can even have unique personalities based on their experiences, and learn to react differently depending on the actions of their owners. In this way, Vanguard Industries said Moflin is able to more realistically mimic living animals— except you won’t need to clean up its messes or shell out for costly vet appointments.
It’s way too early to tell how Moflin will function in the real world, but after seeing a handful of pictures and videos, I have to admit: Moflin is undeniably endearing. The creature doesn’t seem to have a mouth, but between its tiny eyes and the way it squirms and wiggles (kinda like a fluffier Teletubby but without the creepy, murderous grin), you can’t help but want to scoop one up, cuddle it, and protect it with your life.
Inside its fluffy shell, Moflin features a simple body with a main joint that allows it to bend and rotate its head, along with a number of different sensors (touch, microphone, accelerometer, gyroscope, and more), Bluetooth 4.2, a rechargeable battery, and even pairs with a smartphone app for iOS or Android. Vanguard Industries even designed a little crib for Moflin that doubles as a wireless charger, so that when it’s not in use, it can refuel and stay safe in its own little nest.
Moflin even has a built-in sound engine that the company said can create an infinite number of noise patterns to better communicate how it’s feeling, sometimes even while Moflin is “asleep.” And in the future, Vanguard Industries said it hopes to be able to update Moflin with new software to help extend its lifespan while also enhancing its capabilities. After all, you wouldn’t just throw out a pet just because it got old, would you?
As for Vanguard Industries itself, the Tokyo-based design and innovation firm has worked on projects including land- and water-based drones, a neat adjustable chair with upholstery that you can flip like pages in a book, and a toy called the Fidget Knob.
Right now, aside from an initial delivery date set for sometime in March 2021, Moflin’s biggest downside is its price. Currently, even for super early-bird backers on Kickstarter, Moflin is priced at 37,800 yen (around $360), which is more expensive than a real live cat or rabbit.
That said, with a Sony Aibo costing upwards of $2,000, in some regards Moflin is kind of a bargain. And, more importantly: How can you argue with that cuddly little face? At the time of writing, Vanguard Industries is quickly approaching its funding goal on Kickstarter, with pledges already exceeding $13,000 of the company’s $19,000 target. Of course, as with all Kickstarter campaigns, it’s important to remember that backers may never see a return on their investment, but I’m really hoping this campaign works out, because it’s kind of hard to hate something this cute and cuddly.