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Cocorobo: Japan’s emotionally needy answer to the Roomba

If there’s one thing Japanese consumers love more than wide-eyed anime vixens and adorably compact living spaces, it’s anthropomorphized machinery. From the fictional Gundam mechas to this adorable snoring cessation bear, the Japanese have a long history of applying human and animal traits to their gadgets, and in that vein researchers at Sharp have created Cocorobo.

The device is similar to a Roomba vacuum cleaner, both in purpose and and in design. It’s a small, disc-shaped machine that cleans floors automatically. Unlike a traditional vacuum it roams around your house, learning the layout and using its innate software to more efficiently suck up dust.

Unlike the Roomba however, the Cocorobo offers emotional interaction and a slew of features designed to make it seem like a living entity. According to DigInfo, the Cocorobo is equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera, LED lights and wireless network capabilities, allowing users to check on the thing via either iPhone or Android devices. Additionally, it’s equipped with speech recognition software, which gives owners the option to control the Cocorobo either using its remote control or simple voice commands.

The most intriguing bit however, is that Cocorobo also has “feelings.” DigInfo reports:

… if you use Cocorobo every day, or speak to it every day, it gets in a good mood. Depending on how it feels, its words and movements vary a lot, so you can gain a feeling of closeness with it. Regarding Cocorobo’s learning capability, we’re planning upgrades that will make it evolve rapidly.

And in a bit of surprisingly cool news, DigInfo claims that Cocorobo will navigate its environment via electronic echolocation. This allows it to avoid bumping into things like transparent glass tables which simple camera-based navigation wouldn’t be able to detect, but more crucially it brings your new vacuum cleaner one step closer to being a bat.

Unfortunately, all of these amenities are going to cost you. When it goes on sale later this year, the Cocorobo is expected to be priced at 130,000 yen (roughly $1,600 USD). Then again, your relationship with your current cleaning devices leaves a lot to be desired, so maybe that massive cash outlay is worth it for the lonely and the dirty.