Students at the University of Tokyo and Waseda University are developing a small desktop communication robot called CoCoNatch (ココナッチ) that lights up and wiggles when a new message hits your twitter feed. Looking a bit like a stress reliever, the CoCoNatch connects to your computer through USB and has RGB LEDs. Depending on the context of a new tweet (including emoticons), the robot will display different colors and will vibrate when frightened, communicating the sender’s presence. Massaging the CoCoNatch will allow you to reply directly to the incoming message. You can also record up to about 20 words such as “hello” and “good morning” that will be played back when appropriate (up to 1000 with an additional microSD card).
Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University, the Project Manager, compared what the students are trying to accomplish with the explosive popularity of the Tamagotchi, as a potential breakthrough robotics product for young people. In order to market the robot, it was designed to be cute enough that even women wouldn’t mind having one, said one of the students. The plan is to begin selling them this fall through a robotics venture company called Yukai Engineering, with the first batch of 1000 selling for about 4,000 JPY ($45 USD) a pop. Prior to release a prototype will be available for 6,000 JPY ($70 USD) to test the durability of internal components.
Twitter has become something of a phenomenon in Japan, where “tweets” are referred to as “mutterings” due to their short length. Even large company executives actively twitter in remarkably casual fashion. The character-based Japanese tweets can communicate more than the typical 148 letter English tweet.