A new robotic pet manufactured by South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute has been modeled after the Australian koala bear. The researchers reportedly chose the koala because it’s lazy—they wanted a robo-pet that wouldn’t raise people’s expectations too high. If they tried to build a dog, for example, people might expect a lot of running and jumping, and the researchers say the motors they use in their robots aren’t good enough for those sorts of motions yet.
The pet, called Kobie, reacts to light, touch, sound and posture. All of its processing happens elsewhere, via a wireless connection with a nearby server or PC. And it never responds too dramatically. Senior researcher Sohn Joo-Chan was quoted as saying that slapping the pet once provokes little reaction, but after a few more strikes, it starts to signal that it’s scared. OK, that sounds cool, but why is this guy slapping his robot?—Gregory Mone