This Pricey Robot’s Only Job Is to Be Adorable

Robots have been developed to do extraordinary things. From working in industrial manufacturing, serving the medical field or teaching STEM, robots can--and will--provide a lot of functionality. Lovot, on the other hand, isn’t meant to do much besides roam around your home and demand attention. It’s the pet for people who don’t like pets: meet Lovot.

Lovot pulled me in at CES this week, rolling around the showfloor with big, hungry, blue, cartoon-like LCD eyes. Just barely reaching my shins, the little guy was roaming about on its own, gazing at those who stopped and lifting its fin-like arms up in search of a hug.

Lovot is an upcoming pet robot from Groove X. It won’t arrive in the U.S. until 2020, but Japan’s getting it this winter. Using AI and facial recognition, it develops relationships with multiple people in your home. It’ll know who in your house hugs it and plays with it the most and gravitate to that person, showing them the most love. As you can see in the video above, I hadn't quite earned this Lovot's trust yet, and it rejected my initial hug (I won it over eventually). 

It has a 360-degree camera sticking out of its head, plus an antenna with a luminosity sensor for simultaneous localization and mapping, or learning your home’s layout out so it doesn’t crash into stuff or fall down the stairs. It’ll even do this when you’re out of the house so it can keep learning.

Lovot runs on 10 CPU cores: four x86, four ARMv8 and two ARMv7-R. It also has 8G of RAM and 1TB of storage. The Bluetooth machine more literally runs on servo motors with 13 degrees-of-freedom. Sensors include illuminometer, thermo- and hygrometer, IMU, NFC, pressure, distance, obstacle and touch sensors and electrodes. Groove X will even sell clothes, like kimonos, for Lovots with a taste for fashion.

Want Lovot to love you the most? You’ll have to play with it, including tickling it, petting it, talking to it and picking it up. Lifting Lovot isn’t too difficult since it weighs 3-4kg (6.6-8.8 pounds). But I did notice his plastic underside was starting to get hot after holding him for about five minutes.

But here’s the catch, if Lovot is really to serve as a 24/7 companion, like a pet, it needs a lot of charging. If moving around constantly, it’s battery life is a mere 50 minutes. On the bright side, charging is only supposed to take 15 minutes. Still, that’s a limited amount of continuous play, especially when you hear what Lovot costs.

Yes, the real kicker is the price. Groove X isn’t positive about U.S. pricing yet but told us it expects Lovot to land in the $5,000-$6,000 range. That means Lovot may cost almost double that of Sony’s Aibo robot dog. That may partially be because Lovot will only sell in pairs of two. We asked why and were told that it’s so no Lovot ever gets lonely and can have someone to play with when its owner isn't around. Call me heartless, but I think Lovot would fare a lot better selling one lonely robot at half the price.

But hey, if you want all the neediness of a pet, but don’t want to deal with vets and cleaning, feeding and walking it, maybe Furby’s cuter, smarter cousin is for you. Just have that charger ready.

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