Cute and cuddly are not words that come to mind when mentioning Panasonicbut the company plans to launch already in the spring a robot in the form of a mascot that was marketed last year as it goes beyond its traditional business of home appliances.
The robot, named Nicobo, is approximately 20 centimeters across and can wag its tail or change its expression in response to human interaction. It will imitate sounds when spoken to, but cannot carry on actual conversations or move. The device will be marketed primarily for people who live alone or seniors looking for more companionship.
Nicobo is a stationary robot designed to keep its owners company.
Panasonic Holdings sold 320 Nicobos in less than seven hours during a crowdfunding campaign in 2021. Deliveries began last spring and the company decided to release a larger version in response to favorable feedback.
Each unit was priced at 39,800 yen ($287 at current exchange rates) during the crowdfunding period. Panasonic hasn’t decided on a cost for the general launch, but is seeking a lower price than rival products, such as Sony Group’s Aibo robotic dog or Sharp’s Robohon smartphone robot, to win over consumers who have never bought a robot.
The Aibo retails for 217,800 yen before tax, while the standard Robohon model starts at 132,000 yen before tax.
生活 を 手助け よう な 機能 は ない 一方 先行 購入 し た 人 から 「癒やし や 愛着 が」 といった 声 が 寄せ られ られ て いる と と いう こと こと こと です ですhttps://t.co/p8i7eEvLyD#nhk_video pic.twitter.com/Bz7AdU4mmh
— NHKニュース (@nhk_news)
March 7, 2023
Although the Japanese company is widely known for its televisions and other electronics, it faces growing competition in the field from rivals in China and South Korea. It’s also losing ground among younger customers, and a 2021 survey by Panasonic found that just 53% of Japanese respondents in their 20s recognized the brand.
Panasonic also aims to turn Nicobo into a recurring revenue stream. The robot will come with a subscription service that allows users to store facial data and conversations in the cloud.
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