Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Toyota's Kirobo Mini

It is not strange for companies to venture into seemingly unrelated businesses. Not even car companies.
Since the early 1970s, German automotive brand Volkswagen has been producing its own Currywurst sausage. It is made at the butchery in VW’s Wolfsburg plant, which churns out over 4.8 million Currywursts annually.
For years, it was only available to its German employees and visitors to Autostadt, VW’s theme park. Now it is also available at the Deutsches Currywurst Museum Berlin, an entire museum dedicated to currywurst.
In the 1990s, VW even began creating their own brand of thick ketchup to top the sausage.
And then there is Peugeot and peppermills – the French company has been making pepper, salt and coffee mills for longer than it has been making cars. It is regarded by many as the best peppermill in the world. It even comes with a lifetime guarantee and the parts are reckoned to be impossible to wear out.
Also the rugged outdoors image of Eddie Bauer’s clothing brand has been used effectively to sell sport utility vehicles made by Ford.
And the high-quality image of Swiss Army knives has been used to sell Swiss Army–branded luggage and watches.
We refer this as unrelated diversification.
Most unrelated diversification efforts, however, do not have happy endings.
Harley-Davidson, for example, once tried to sell Harley-branded bottled water. Starbucks tried to diversify into offering Starbucks-branded furniture. Both efforts were disasters.
Although Harley-Davidson and Starbucks both enjoy iconic brands, these strategic resources simply did not transfer effectively to the bottled water and furniture businesses.
Still, many companies are ever willing to give it a shot.
Toyota has been leveraging its considerable mechanical expertise to build robots since the 1970s, when it emerged as a pioneer in the field of industrial robotics. In 2000, the company expanded to personal robots, and has since built machines that can play walk, talk, play musical instruments, and offer degrees of assistance to the disabled.
Toyota's latest robot is an assistant of a different sort. Called the Kirobo Mini, this charming android measures a mere four inches high in his standard sitting position.
‘He's’ a "communication partner," says Toyota, designed to be a miniature personal companion. Aesthetically, ‘he’ is halfway between Astro Boy and a Prius.
The company plans to sell the robot through car dealerships for 39,800 yen (a bit more than £300), which seems steep only until you see just what a clever little dickens ‘he’ is.
‘He’ is capable of engaging in some fairly elaborate and highly animated small talk (only in Japanese, for now), and uses a camera to recognize – through facial expressions, gestures and vocal tone – the emotional state of ‘his’, er… human companion.
‘His’ gaze will follow the movement of ‘his’ owner's head during the conversation, and ‘his’ glowing eyes will "blink" to remind the human that ‘he’ is talking to a sentient being and not, say, an electric hairdryer.
Moreover, the gadget remembers its human companion's likes, dislikes and "shared travels," and will increasingly integrate that information into its conversation. ("We have been here before!").
Alas, despite the emblem on ‘his’ chest, Kirobo Mini cannot drive. And much like a child, Kirobo Mini will run hard for 2.5 hours before requiring a 3-hour nap to recharge.
What will they think of next?
On Monday evening, the Area P5 Humorous Speech & Speech Evaluation Contests were held at the NAWEM office in Rumah Puspanita in KL’s Jalan Hose. And twelve Liquid Gold members made their presence felt!
Some of the contestants can be seen below:

We had three contestants who participated in both contests and all three had podium finishes! Well done!
And four Liquid Gold Toastmasters are progressing to the next level:

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