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This robotic cat bit my finger and made my heart flutter

I was skeptical when I first heard about Amagami Ham Ham. It’s a cute robot that nibbles your finger, which is supposed to be a relaxing, almost nurturing action to reduce stress, heal, and comfort you. Surely, this simply couldn’t be accurate.

However, Amagami Ham Ham comes from the brains behind the amazing Qoobo tailed cushion, which made a lonely 2021 lockdown a whole lot more bearable for me. So, despite this skepticism, I wondered if a robot biting my finger really could help with relaxation. After a long journey from Japan, where makers Yukai Engineering are based — and several weeks of gentle finger-biting later — have Kotaru and Yuzu nibbled their way into my heart?

Meet Kotaru and Yuzu

Amagami Ham Ham's Yuzu and Kotaru.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Before we get into the whole finger-biting thing, an introduction is in order. In Japanese, the name “Amagami Ham Ham” is made up of words related to biting (or the sound of munching), and there are two members of the Amagami Ham Ham family: Yuzu the cat and Kotaru the Shiba Inu dog. My two visitors are prototypes delivered to me ahead of the ongoing Indiegogo campaign.

Their fur is short and soft, each is filled with very squashy padding, and the design is as cute as you’d hope. Yuzu sits up better than Kotaru (who is far more sleepy), and while they aren’t especially huggable due to the battery pack that’s placed inside the body and the mechanism for the mouth, they are quite squeezable. Neither are very big, so they don’t take up much room, and could happily sit on a desk or bedside table without getting in the way. In other words, they have not caused any trouble since moving in.

The back of Amagami Ham Ham showing the zips.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Unlike Qoobo, Yuzu and Kotaru don’t have built-in rechargeable batteries and instead run on three AA battery cells. These are hidden inside a zip-up compartment, which is accessed on their back. It’s not the most elegant solution, and the battery pack is quite large and easily felt inside the body, but it is likely effective at reducing the overall cost.

Bite my finger

Now that all the vaguely technical talk is out of the way, what’s it like to live with finger-biting robots? I know you should never play favorites, but Yuzu is my go-to biter. There really is a difference between the two, with Kotaru’s HAMgorithm — the name given to the program that randomizes Amagami Ham Ham’s 24 different biting modes — often being a little more aggressive than Yuzu’s. Yuzu’s lazy bites are gentle, soft, and peaceful.

Just @amagami_hamham nibbling my finger… pic.twitter.com/qMbZ26oRFb

— Andy Boxall (@AndyBoxall) October 31, 2022

The biting starts when you put your finger in its mouth, and its little face scrunches up cutely as it chews. It’s not a vigorous motion, but you can feel tiny “teeth” on the lower jaw push into your fingertip. With so many different modes, you rarely get the same one twice in a row, yet I always like the one that falls into a “gentle-gentle-gentle-harder” motion, but the more frantic chewing one is also amusing.

But is it relaxing? I’ve sat watching TV with Yuzu biting my finger, and although I wouldn’t say it relaxed me, there is something soothing about not just the biting action, but the repetitive sound of the motor inside. It’s more calming than relaxing. This is also the reason I find Yuzu’s choice of HAMgorithms preferable. You only need to put your finger into its mouth a little for the action to start, but it usually requires a wriggle to get it going.

At this point, you’ll notice I’m talking like it’s totally normal to have a finger-biting robot, but it has taken me a while to get to this point. At first, it’s pretty weird, and you have to commit to get any benefit — so make the effort to push past the initial oddness and accept there’s nothing wrong with a small robotic cat nibbling your fingertip.

Biting fingers or wagging tails

Amagami Ham Ham is a crazy, cute, and totally unique creation. I love the madness behind making such a thing, the feeling of the little bites, and I do think there’s a calming effect to Amagami Ham Ham’s finger-nibbling antics too. But I can’t help but compare it to the company’s last product, Qoobo, the lovable tailed cushion.

They both have therapeutic benefits, or at least claim to, which are just delivered in totally different ways. Amagami Ham Ham has a novelty factor that’s missing when you stroke Petit Qoobo. Yuzu’s gentle finger-biting comes close to being relaxing, but it can’t quite match Petit Qoobo’s “hear beat” and tiny wagging tail for making you smile. Qoobo remains a genuinely wonderful thing, and Amagami Ham Ham can’t quite match the depth of connection you get with it. It’s not just me. When I showed both Qoobo and Yuzu to a friend, after having her finger bitten for a bit, she gradually just spent more time petting Qoobo.

If Qoobo had a face, it would be looking with some jealousy at Yuzu and Kotaru recently, not knowing why I had been spending less time with it over the past few weeks. But this won’t last. I’ve found Amagami Ham Ham cute and fun, and will definitely return to them, but I’m not sure they have the lasting cuteness, appeal, and soothing nature of Qoobo, the tailed cushion. The good thing? No one is forcing you to only have one cute, robotic friend, and you can always visit Amagami Ham Ham’s Indiegogo campaign, where you can get Yuzu or Kotaru for about $55.

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