Nicobo is here – but why and what does it do? Japan has always been a pioneer in robotics. It is also clear that people from Japan sometimes build things that only the Japanese understand. I don’t know how you feel about it, but this story might be one of those products. Brace for your favorite kind of geek gadgets.
Panasonic, a Japanese multinational electronics company headquartered in Kadoma, Osaka, Japan, has been working on a pet robot. They went through the Japanese crowdfunding platform Makuake to gather financial support for the development. Now, there have been pet robots and other toys roaming the industry for decades. What makes this one special?
What makes Nicobo special?
Nicobo is a cute little plushie-like companion robot that has the ability to talk, a few words at least, and it farts, or let’s better say it plays back farting sounds to stay truthful to its function. The idea behind this is to make people smile because who doesn’t love farting things. Okay, that’s their opinion, not mine.
The idea originally came from a Panasonic employee in pursuit to search more for solutions that enrich our lives rather than solving problems or adding convenience to our lives. So they not only want to provide you with appliances that help you with chores, but they also seek to make you have a better day. That’s a fine goal to have.
In a press release, Panasonic says that in the times of COVID-19, they wanted something that helps to ease the burdens of communication by introducing a robotic housemate that can make you smile as well from time to time. It’s a technology with the target of improving people’s moods and not just represents a means to receive tasks from your boss. A “new form of happiness” is born.
How did this come to be?
The project is further supported by Michio Okada of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Toyohashi University of Technology. Okada has previously worked on projects such as the Sociable Trash Box, Sociable Creature ‘Muu,’ and Namida, the autonomous driving system.
The idea behind the concept of a farting pet robot is that it would disclose imperfections to its surroundings rather than hiding them and therewith rewarding witnesses with kindness and compassion. It’s a scurrile concept, but I won’t judge. The crowdfunding campaign has already been closed as the maximum amount of possible funding has been achieved. This is reasoning enough for me to believe that even farting can be lovable and will make people want to pay for it. Nicobo is all about exploring weaknesses and defusing them with simple exposure.
What can Nicobo do? Besides the obvious…
Nicobo will react to touch. Stroked gently by their owners, Nicobo will waggle its tail and make a friendly gesture or sound. Nicobo, however, has a carefree personality and does not require a lot of attention. It’s perfectly content also to fart at its own pace, or it will just look at what you are doing from a distance to its coinhabitants.
This cute buddy will also be able to speak. Still, it appears to be able to express only a single word in various ways and with various meanings behind it, similar to how you might recall conversations go from one Pokémon to the other. If you react and talk back to Nicobo, it will react with a smile. Why not?
How did the crowdfunding go, and what are the prices?
The funding campaign was closed at 112% of the target funding amount. A total of 11,287,600 Japanese Yen (converts to 106,968 USD) were backed by a total of 312 people in a duration of 23 days. The price of one farting Nicobo will roughly be around 377 USD once (if) it goes public, but it is currently not known if they will sell this product outside of Japan in the future. So there might some import fees as well if you truly need to get your hands on a Nicobo robot in the future. The shipping of Nicobo is planned to start in March 2022.
Photo credit: All shown images are owned by Panasonic and were provided for press usage.
Source: Panasonic press release / Makuake site
Editorial notice: Since the source information is only available in Japanese, there might have been translation mistakes.