Cocorobo: Japan’s emotionally needy answer to the Roomba now plays J-pop

cocorobo japans emotionally needy answer to the roomba

If there is one thing Japanese consumers love more than wide-eyed anime vixens and adorably compact living spaces, it is anthropomorphized machinery. From the fictional Gundam mechs 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 is 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 is equipped with speech recognition software, which gives owners the option to control the Cocorobo either using its remote control or simple voice commands.

In the latest iteration of the Cocorobo, recently unveiled at the 2016 Ceatec show in Japan, the automated vacuum plays music. Because the only thing better than a self-sufficient vacuum cleaner is one that plays J-pop — Japanese pop music — while it cleans. Apparently, the update was made after users commented that they did not like the normal sucking sound the vacuum made as it went about its job.

So now, the Cocorobo plays J-pop songs performed by Yamaha’s voice synthesis software, Vocaloid, which also allows it to talk to its owner. You can set the playlist yourself, or just tell your vacuum what you want to hear.

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.”

DigInfo also 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 would not be able to detect, but more crucially it brings your new vacuum cleaner one step closer to being a bat.

Article originally published in May 2012. Updated on 10-06-2016 by Lulu Chang: Added news that the latest iteration of the Cocorobo plays J-pop. 

Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Dyson and Hoover vacuums by up to $160

Hoover and Dyson are two of the most popular vacuum brands on the market right now, and with savings up to $160, Amazon is offering some of the best prices on the web. These vacuum deals are definitely worth a look.
Smart Home

Let a robot do your chores! Here are the best robot vacuums for 2019

Robot vacuums are a convenient way to tidy up your home and minimize your weekly to-do list. From a top-of-the-line model to a handy budget option, here are the best robot vacuums you can buy right now.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on robot vacuums in time for Valentine’s Day

Treat yourself this Valentine's Day to smart home tech that will make your life so much easier. Amazon is slashing the prices on robot vacuums like our recommended favorite Ecovacs Deebot N79S. Ditch the cables with a self-cleaning robot…
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘Refabricator’ lets astronauts recycle 3D-printed tools to make new ones

The International Space Station just received a fancy new gadget in the form of a Refabricator, a machine capable of 3D printing using recycled plastic materials. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Words are so 2018. The Peeqo robot speaks exclusively in GIFs and video clips

Move over, Amazon Echo! Peeqo is a cute robot that will answer your spoken word questions by displaying a specially selected short video or GIF. Because, you know, it’s the year 2019.
Product Review

Yuneec’s Mantis Q will make you wish you bought a DJI drone

Yuneec’s high-end drones are arguably the ones to beat in terms of flight control, design, and their photographic capabilities. But the company has struggled to make a low-end drone that’s worth buying, and the Mantis Q is proof of that…
Emerging Tech

Airbus will stop making the world’s biggest passenger plane

Airbus announced this week that it will stop building the world's biggest passenger plane in 2021. The maker of the double-decker A380 said a changing market and lack of orders gave it little choice but to end production.
Emerging Tech

Exploding vape pen battery starts fire on SkyWest flight

A vape pen battery caused a fire in an overhead bin on a SkyWest Airlines flight on Wednesday. It's the latest in a string of incidents where faulty or poorly made lithium-ion batteries have caused gadgets to catch fire.
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s MAVEN orbiter has a new job as a communication relay for Mars 2020

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has been collecting atmospheric readings but now is taking on a new job as a data relay satellite for the Mars 2020 mission that launches next year.