SoftBank alumni launches robot companion designed to love humans

  • Groove X, founded by an ex-SoftBank employee, has opened pre-orders for its robot pet “Lovot.”
  • The robots are fitted with AI and hardware to imitate emotional responses.
  • Shipment of Lovots ordered now will begin in the autumn of 2019.

A $3,100 robot companion that exists to make people happy was unveiled on Tuesday by Japanese start-up Groove X, a tech firm founded by a SoftBank Robotics alumnus.

The Lovot was designed "to enhance levels of comfort and feelings of love," according to the company, and has the ability to react to people's moods, thanks to Groove X's "Emotional Robotics" technology.

"When you touch your Lovot, embrace it, even just watch it, you'll find yourself relaxing, feeling better. It's a little like feeling love toward another person," the robot's designers said on their website on Tuesday.

"Lovot will react to your moods and do all it can to fill you with joy and re-energize you. It may not be a living creature, but Lovot will warm your heart."

Groove X said the launch of Lovot will spark an all-new relationship between robots and humans. Founder and CEO Kaname Hayashi was the development leader of SoftBank's robot Pepper before founding Groove X.

Lovot robots are displayed during an unveiling event on December 18, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images
Lovot robots are displayed during an unveiling event on December 18, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan.

The wheeled robots are fitted with around 50 sensors and use artificial intelligence to mimic the behaviour and emotions of a living being. A thermal camera allows Lovot to scan a room and immediately find its owner, while touch sensors on its body encourage "the closeness between a mother and child."

Buyers will have a choice of colours when ordering their Lovot, and Groove X will also offer clothes and accessories for the three-kilogram robots.

Pre-ordering of the Lovot begins on Tuesday, with a deposit of 20,000 yen ($177.67) required to secure the purchase. The pre-order offers either a set of two Lovots for 598,000 yen, which are due to be shipped at the end of 2019, or one Lovot for shipment in early 2020 at a cost of 349,000 yen.