Sharp is set to launch the COCOROBO, which is the first robot that can respond to homeowners' spoken prompts and can change its 'mood' based on user interaction.
Robotic vacuum cleaners which clean the home with minimal human interaction seem impressive enough and we have even seen the technology transferred to lawn mowers with Sweden’s Husqvarna device. Japanese appliance manufacturer Sharp, however, believes that there are still improvements to be made on the indoor variety and is set to launch the COCOROBO, which is the first robot of its kind to have a personality, as well as the ability to respond to homeowners’ spoken prompts. Due onto the Japanese market in early June, the COCOROBO is an automatic household vacuum cleaner in the vein of the existing iRobot Roomba. In order to distinguish the device, Sharp has opted for a number of extra features – some functional and some quirky. The cleaner has a timer operation and can be automatically set to cover the entire room or concentrate on a small part (down to a one-meter diameter circle), much like its Roomba counterpart. However, it also comes with a Plasmacluster Ion Generator, which de-humidifies rooms by spraying a high concentration of ions into the atmosphere above it. Using speech recognition technology developed by RayTron, the COCOROBO reacts to spoken commands and is also able to respond in three languages – English, Chinese and Japanese – with one of 36 pre-loaded greetings and comments such as “I understand”. The idea is that the device becomes more like a pet than a piece of machinery, changing its behavior depending on the quality of interaction with its owner. In the developers’ own words: “If you use COCOROBO every day, or speak to it every day, it gets in a good mood.” On top of this, the high-end version of the robot cleaner is equipped with a 1.3-megapixel motion camera and wireless internet connection. When the user is out of the house, they can connect to the device through their smartphone and control COCOROBO to check on the state of their home. The COCOROBO will be available in two versions – the RX-V100, which will have full features and will be priced at JPY 130,000, and the RX-V80, a basic version without a camera, priced around JPY 90,000. DigInfo has posted the below video, which shows the device in action: COCOROBO comes with some tailored technology that sets it apart from its competitors, but it will remain to be seen if consumers want the potential hassle of having to check their vacuum cleaner is happy. Could new, more human, technologies be integrated into your product in a similar way?