Baby Robot Introduced in Japan

December 21, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. unveil / ʌnˈveɪ l/ (v.) – to reveal
Example: We will unveil the new design tomorrow.

2. mimic / ˈmɪm ɪk / (v.) – to copy someone’s appearance, actions, or way of speaking
Example: The new robot can mimic human voice.

3. simulator / ˈsɪm yəˌleɪ tər / (n.) – something that recreates or imitates what something is like
Example: The flight simulator is used to train student pilots.

4. resemble / rɪˈzɛm bəl / (v.) – to be like or similar to
Example: You strongly resemble my friend Jordan.

5. companion / kəmˈpæn yən / (n.) – someone or something that a person spends time with
Example: His loyal dog is his companion wherever he goes.


Read the text below.
Toyota’s non-automotive department has recently unveiled a robot baby, which the company said is meant to create an emotional connection.

Named the Kirobo Mini, the robotic baby has artificial intelligence that copies a five-year-old child. It also wobbles while sitting in order to mimic a baby that cannot balance itself well. Fuminori Kataoka, Kirobo Mini’s chief design engineer, said that it was made to seem vulnerable to build a connection between the robot baby and the person it communicates with.

Aside from these features, the robot is also built with a camera for face recognition, which allows it to read facial expressions and react to them. It also comes with a small cradle that can fit in a car’s cup holder. Kirobo Mini is priced at ¥39,800, or around $390, and will be available for sale in Japan next year.

Kataoka said that Toyota is now investing more in artificial intelligence. He considers the Kirobo Mini as a step toward developing more advanced robots that can respond to human emotions.

The Kirobo Mini is not the first baby simulator in the market. Realityworks, a US company that advocates learning through technology, has also developed a robot called RealCare Baby. It is a robotic doll that resembles a real baby and simulates everything that an infant does. It cries and coos, and must be fed at the right schedule. However, instead of being a companion robot like the Kirobo Mini, the RealCare Baby was designed to teach students lessons on childcare and parenting.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think that introducing robot babies as companions is a good idea? Why or why not?
·         Aside from having companion robots, how else can people avoid being lonely?

Discussion B

·         What are the advantages and disadvantages of robotic innovations?
·         Do you think that using artificial intelligence is absolutely essential nowadays?

December 21, 2016