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Panasonic Crowdfunds Robotic Cat

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It doesn’t do much besides sit around and fart, but then again, neither does a cat.

For those of us without the space, time, or means to support a living creature for a pet, the idea of robotic pets has served as an attractive alternative, with some standouts including Sony’s robotic dog Aibo, or Groove X’s penguin-like Lovot. Of course, even these little mechanoids require care and programming, which could still be too much for some. The best possible choice would be something content to just sit in one place and be cute. This is exactly what Panasonic is now working on.

A couple of weeks ago, Panasonic launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Japanese crowdfunding platform Makuake for Nicobo, its own robotic cat. Well, calling it a “cat” is a little generous; it looks more like a combination of a pillow and a sock monkey, but its soft composition and expressive LED eyes do make it undoubtedly cute, which is the whole point. Nicobo’s goal is to hang around you and serve as a calm, comforting presence. It doesn’t have much in the way of personal locomotion, but it can shimmy around a little, react when you pet or touch it, and even talk in single words and baby-like babbling. It can also fart, because that’s just something you have to live with when you have a pet.

Panasonic launched its campaign with a goal of 10,000,000 yen (approximately $95,000 USD), and by the time it finished, they had ultimately raised 11,576,000 yen. Panasonic is planning to keep things low-key with Nicobo’s initial rollout, with only 320 units to start for about $360 a pop, all of which have already been pre-ordered. Apparently, they’re also making some aspects of the device subscription-based after a six-month free period, so to do things like connect your smartphone to it and get software updates, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee of around $10. Hey, still cheaper than cat food.