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Robot Cat 'NeCoRo' 197

Ssmoimo writes: "Omron's robot pet developing department chief Toshihiro Tashima introduces "NeCoRo" in Tokyo Tuesday. The robotic cat will go on sale in November for about $1,530." Chris DiBona said it was "freaky", and I think that's as good a description as any. You can see this thing sucking the breath out of a small child, can't you?
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Robot Cat 'NeCoRo'

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  • You can't train them and they don't move like Sony Aibo. :(

  • I wonder if my girlfriend would notice if I swaped her cat for one of these.
  • Imagine a beowolf-cluster of these !!
  • From the website:
    Its "vocabulary" includes 48 different cat noises
    And all this time I thought it was just meows, purrs and growls.
    • Re:Vocabulary (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Apparently you've never experienced a Maine Coon cat. They're not just the biggest cats you can find, but also the most vocal ones. They have a wide range of chirrups and meows, and once they have you trained you know pretty well what they mean by each one ;)

    • Apparently you've never heard one cough up a hairball :)

    • My cat says "meowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwrf". Really. There is a distinct "f" sound at the end.

      And, as I posted to the elbows mailing list more than 10 years ago, "Cats don't go whirrrr".
  • by Frac ( 27516 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @06:46AM (#2440487)
    They cost more than Aibos, they do less, and they look like pets owned by the Children of the Corn [yahoo.com].


    • Should have named them "Robo-cat" - that one on the right is about as appealing as Arnold Schwartzeswhatzis...
      Of course, most of the cats in Tokyo *are* deformed, so they didn't have good examples to work from...

      Jim in Tokyo
      • heh... one time when Schwarzenegger was on Saturday Night Live they did a Terminator parody called "Tooncinator", featuring a robotic version of Toonces the Driving Cat. It looked just like those creatures.
      • It is called "Cat-Robot" (in Japanese). There's a conversation starter you can use while you're in Tokyo - "Atarashii Neko-ro wa chotto okashii desu ne?"

        BTW, I'm sure this will be a flop - at least in the west. The great Japanese ideas are never heard about until they are everywhere, and they seem to ration them to only one per company.

    • Well, I gotta admit I did look at this article before my morning coffee and I was going "Huh? NecroCat? Wha?" Then I went to the website and got a look at the thing and sure enough it looked like someone had taxidermy Fluffy.

      Must be the new pet sidekick for Spawn or something.

  • realism (Score:5, Funny)

    by zephc ( 225327 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @06:49AM (#2440493)
    as someone stated above, they dont move and you cant train them.... so they emulate real cats perfectly
    • Re:realism (Score:4, Insightful)

      by s390 ( 33540 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:44AM (#2440599) Homepage
      as someone stated above, they dont move and you cant train them.... so they emulate real cats perfectly

      I realize it's funny, but cats conserve their energy because when then move, they move fast, expending a lot of energy. They're also rather small, so it's a lot more energy for a cat to run full-tilt than it is for a human. I'm told that a cat playing expends 100 times more energy, relatively, than a person playing similarly. I have a few cats and it was amazing to watch them play in the yard, slide down railings, climb the tree up to 50 feet or more (and get down safely), and generally just be cats. They're indoors cats now, but they do play with each other and they all love it when I can play with them.

      And it's not true that cat's aren't trained. They don't do "tricks" - I haven't gotten any to fetch back anything thrown yet (but I hope to). Rather, cats adapt to their owner(s) with the objectives of: (1) safety, (2) food, and (3) attention, with this last confirming the continuance of the first two. In this, they've got the basics of human relationships down pretty well (though this might sound cynical, it's true). Some cats are rather intelligent creatures.

      The robot cats seem very... Japanese. No individual personality. They don't play. They don't follow one around. They don't crave attention. Who would want them, except perhaps as very expensive bookends or doorstops? Maybe in Japan where personal space is measured in square centimeters?

      I'll keep my real cats. It's rather nice to be greeted each morning and evening by a bright and confident cat. Easier than people (yes, I have those too).
      • My older cat wheezes (he's a bit chubby) after he's done playing for a while.

        My younger cat fetches. I'm serious, too; my wife taught him how to retrieve crumpled-up paper, and they play fetch together for upwards of 10 minutes a day.

        It's weird to watch cats walking around carrying things in their mouths.
        • Re:realism (Score:2, Funny)

          by AnalogBoy ( 51094 )
          I have two cats. One cat has a cloaking device (it tends to find amazing hiding spaces, when there arent any!) and the other one disguises itself as a cow.
      • Says who you can't train a cat to do tricks? As part of one of his college psych courses my father taught his cat to go into the box, some out a hole in the top, and stand on a pedistal on top of it to get a treat. The funny thing was the cat would go in the box and sit and purr for a moment because it knew a treat was forthcoming.
      • The robot cats seem very... Japanese. No individual personality.

        boy, people never get tired of rehashing this old cliche. In actuality, the Japanese have just as much "individual personality" as any American, but since their society generally does not reward individuality, it is stifled.

      • My sister's cat has been trained to bring back a rubber ball when we throw it. It didn't even take very much effort to teach the cat this as we were not even _trying_ to teach the cat. She just sort of picked it up. Now she'll bring us the ball out of the blue whenever she want's to play fetch.

        She also drags a stupid string around all the time, but that's another thing all together...

      • They don't do "tricks" - I haven't gotten any to fetch back anything thrown yet (but I hope to).

        Funny you should mention 'fetch'. I have a male cat that will fetch perfectly, and return the object and drop it in my hand.

        He didn't require a lot of reinforcement (not like concrete and rebar, silly, praise and treats!) for the fetch part, and the drop-it-in-the-hand part only took a couple of fetches with praise for dropping it in my hand for him to catch on.

        • My cat will also fetch things. He generally prefers the little safety rings off of gallon jugs, because he can step on the side and flip them up, then hook them over his lower teeth. He'll either run and chase the things or jump and grab them out of the air over his head, depending on how high/hard you throw them; then he'll trot back and drop them in my hand. He'll do that for *hours* - I usually get tired of it well before he does. To offset that entertaining talent, he'll occasionally jump headlong into the screen door thinking he's gonna nab a bird outside. :)

          I need to get him to open the fridge door now...

      • Actually, you can train cats... sometimes...

        I got my cat to fetch a little soft ball as long as she was in the mood for it. Of course, half the time she dropped the ball 2 feet away from me so I had to get up to pick it up...
    • I'm sorry but those are the most sinister / disturbing looking things I have ever seen.
    • they dont move and you cant train them.... so they emulate real cats perfectly

      Who says you can't train a real cat [karawynn.net]?

    • Ah! But they don't emulate real cats perfectly unless they:
      • Struggle when you try to put them in the washing machine
      • Fall off the arm of the couch when woken up suddenly
      • Make you watch them eat (or is it only my cats that do this?)
      • Generally boss around the entire house
      And don't forget the best one!
      • Always pick my father's bed to pee on
  • I'm all about cats, but isn't this just a skinned version of tickle-me-elmo?
    No wait, tickle-me-elmo could move!
  • by tuxisuau ( 454310 )
    Cats are the best pets you can have. They are perfect... robotic replacements maybe better for dogs, not for cats.
  • by jedrek ( 79264 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @06:53AM (#2440500) Homepage
    I understand the Tamagotchi's appeal: It's a little gadget that reacts to different stimulii with a limited range of responses. But it's small, pocket sized, and is actually a social tool as it is quite a conversation piece.

    I understand the AIBO's appeal. It's the uber-geek toy of choice. A small, robotic dog that runs around and yips. Great, we can all live out SF fantasies when the lone hero returns to his one room apartment and is greeted by his voluptous holographic host and his robotic dog.

    But this... this is a bit sick. Neither the AIBO nor Tamagotchi try to do what this cat is doing: imitate a living being. This is a bit disconcerning. The older gadgets were far enough removed from reality that no one was going to mistake them for something real.

    That's not something that I can say about a cat that has a 'fake-fur skin that expands and contracts with its various body movements and facial expressions.' Maybe I'm just bitching, but this doesn't "feel right".
  • by beowulf_26 ( 512332 ) <beowulf_26.hotmail@com> on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:01AM (#2440511) Homepage
    (/me pulls out his best announcer voice)

    Now introducing a cat without that litterbox smell! Sure, it doesn't move, and YES it lacks all the compassion and warmth of a real cat! And it's all yours for the new introductory price of $1,530. That's only FIVE TIMES more expensive than the real cat!
    • YES it lacks all the compassion and warmth of a real cat!
      "compassion and warmth"? Have you ever kept a cat? Have you seen "Cats and Dogs". Have you discussed this with any neighbourhood rodents?
    • Only FIVE TIMES more expensive than a real cat? Man, I should have let that female cat I had keep having kittens! At $306 for each REAL cat, I'd be rich by now!

      Really, $1530 for a fake cat? I thought the Japanese economy has been in recession for more than a decade... Maybe now we know why... they're spending all their money on artificial pets rather than, say, anything important.
      • Maybe now we know why... they're
        spending all their money on artificial pets rather than, say, anything important.

        You don't understand: economy-wise, as long as you do spend, it doesn't matter the least little bit what it's for. That's how consumerism works.

    • It seems some of you have misread what I wrote...

      I said "it lacks all the compassion and warmth of a real cat!"

      As far as I know, when I speak of a robot lacking the compassion and warmth of a real cat, it means that real cats HAVE compassion and warmth. My statement implies this.

      Sure, I'm programmer, and my grammatical skills aren't the best. But I just confirmed it with an English professor for a BigTen school who said the statement was perfectly normal.

      I do not hate cats. I enjoy the company of my cat, Monet, very much.
    • You paid how much for your cat? Hell, I'd pay you to come take my cats.
    • You would pay for a cat? I know some farms where you can take home as many as you want FOR FREE!
  • Maybe I'm just a little warped but the name NeCoRo instantly popped up "Necrotic" in my mind. I was half wondering when the the article would mention that these things had real cat skin or something. Either way it's freaky.

    What's wrong with a real pet? Dogs in particular. you can get them for nothing at a pound and they will love you back. Why have an expensive emulation that doesnt even come close when you can have the real thing. Yes pets can be messy but they can be trained you know

  • This thing combined with an MP3 player... "the purring sound of your choice"
    now THAT would be an improvement
  • by pigret ( 200406 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:05AM (#2440521)
  • What I want is a small robotic dinosaur like that. Based on the Veloceraptor, and about 1 metre high. It would be cool to have one of them that could be programmed with the behaviour that you want, and it would have to be able to freely move around. Just the thing for keeping the next-door neighbors annoying cat out of the garden!!!!! :-)

  • Please... (Score:2, Funny)

    by tomknight ( 190939 )
    ...someone hack one of these to spout esoteric Eastern philosophy....


  • by Bart van der Ouderaa ( 32503 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:20AM (#2440549)
    What good is a virtual cat if it doesn't even walk?
    To be a real virtual cat it should trip me while opening the fridge, leave those mouse corpses on the doormat, put his nails in my ass just because i happened to want to sit in my comfy chair without looking and miauw when it's inside to go out and as soon as it's outside miauw because it wants to go in.

    just sitting there doesn't do it....Although if it was sleeping the whole day...
    I might pay for that :-)
  • I can't beleive they're doing this. They're trying to capture the same hype as aibo, same price, same quantity limit...but this cat just sucks. Ohhh, all it does it purr when you pet it. *gives a little golf clap* Just stick to making me mouse buttons omron.
  • by zephc ( 225327 )
    i wonder why they arent called Nukuro, being as Nuku is the japanese word for cat... does Neco mean anything?
    • Re:name (Score:2, Informative)

      by pigret ( 200406 )
      "Neko" is the Japanse word for cat. neko-robot, presumably.....

      Nick in Sunny Fukuoka,

      (The answer to your question is: with great care...)
    • oops my bad... its Neko =] soo that makes sense now
      • I can understand your confusion though. They really should have made this thing more like All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku; and less like Ashley (my evil cat).
    • Nuku is a partial Japanese word for warmth. Nukumori roughly means the cozy warmth of another live being. And nukunuku means cozy. Neko is the word for cat, with an odd romanization of neco for trendiness' sake.

      Neco = Neko plus Ro from robot => Necoro.

  • by shut_up_man ( 450725 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:29AM (#2440569) Homepage
    "the artificial intelligence and other technologies tested in NeCoRo would find applications in more practical items, such as user-friendly vending machines for train tickets."

    Riiiiiight... vending machines covered in fur, that make 48 types of cat noise and purr when you rub them.

    shut up man
  • Something that is more useless than a real cat!! I thought it would never happen!

  • have no fear (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RestiffBard ( 110729 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @07:35AM (#2440585) Homepage
    saw these on the 11:00 daily show last night. no worries. no chance in hell you could mistake these freaks for a cat. they look like animatronics from disneyland. they also appear to be sinister. I'm certain there's a plot behind it all.
  • by larryj ( 84367 )
    Have they managed to improve his driving skills?
  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @08:51AM (#2440762) Homepage

    Okay, who's going to be the first to make a Bonsai NeCoRo?

    (And how do they taste chopped-up and stir-fried?)

  • The Door into Summer , nineteen-mumble....plotters, cleaning robots - and when his aging tomcat dies, he goes to cat heaven where
    "robot cats are programmed to fight hard but always lose."

    Tell me when they start moving, I might buy one as a toy for my real cats. Or maybe not - one of my females is calling now and would certainly try to seduce it.
    Hmm - I wonder if catse.cx is taken?
  • Characteristics:
    1) Responds to human movement/emotions
    2) Has feelings and desires, and its personality will adjust to its owner
    3) Remembers its name and acknowledges its name when called
    4) Synthetic fur gives it a feline appearance, so it feels natural to treat it like a cat, stroking and hugging it

    So what happens if you kick it? The poster is right, it looks like it would get mad and eat your face off or something. They must be running out of food over there on technology island... it seems like if someone is willing to pay that much for a fake killer cat then feeding a real cat must be expensive!
  • People have a need to dominate wildness. It gives us satisfaction to dominate an animal which would sooner kill us than look at us.

    Cats hate humans. The cat in your house puts up with you because he too small to kill you. The "affection" you get from a cat is simply his social programming in action.

    So, what's the point of this necoro? It is a thing which looks like a cat but is harmless... How do humans get pleasure from that?
  • I'll take a REAL cat for free and save my $1500 to spend on an entertainment center when my REAL cat chews up the power cords on what i have and hacks a fur-ball in the VCR slot.... (always looking for a good excuse to get more A/V toys)

  • Since my girlfriend is highly allergic to cats, but i've always wanted a cat. This is a cat without all the litterbox hassle, food expense, and hairballs. Plus my girlfriend won't sneeze.
  • by sahala ( 105682 )
    so it just sits, meowws every now and then, and responds to touch, and that's supposed to imitate real life for $1500.

    I wish Sony would just start making robotic versions of animal cartoon characters, or little creatures that don't exist in real life. Yes I know that sounds like a Furby or some other whizbang toy, but at least people won't be making direct comparisons to the "real thing".

    Besides, I know a lot of people that wouldn't mind having a robotic pikachu that actually responded to them, or a garfield, or one of those little forest creatures [geocities.com]from Princess Mononoke.

  • BIO Bugs? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by glowingspleen ( 180814 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @10:01AM (#2441015) Homepage
    Speaking of robotic toys, has anyone tried out a BIO Bug yet? I read about them months ago in Wired and was psyched to hear that they were in stores a few weeks ago. They're $40 if you want one.

    Has anyone used one yet? Are they neat, or are they a letdown like Furby? Any chances of hacking them?

    Links to BIO Bug articles:



    toycollecting.about.com/library/weekly/bltoyfair 20 01a.htm
  • by ldopa1 ( 465624 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2001 @10:02AM (#2441020) Homepage Journal
    How can you call it a cat if it doesn't do things characteristic of most cats? Namely:

    Raising it's butt when you scratch it

    Getting up and walking out of the room for absolutely no apparent reason.

    Scratching the bejeezus out of your hand when you scratch it's belly.

    Playing "Turdball" across your living room.

    Laying down on your newspaper when you're reading it.

    And most imporantly:

    Pushing it's butt in your face so you can smell it.

    On the other hand, they definately have the "ignore you" down pat. Perhaps it shouldn't be named "NeCoRo" and instead be called "Necro." It's a bit more fitting.


  • call me when they develop a saroyama style robot girl.
  • I'm a cat person, and this was interesting because my Mom is also a cat person, but allergic to cats. I checked out their website, which had a page of .movs of this little guy:
    http://www.necoro.com/theater/index.html [necoro.com]
    Anyway, the video feature the cat in lots of standard cat mischief, but is now where near worth $1500. Buy a computer and the 'Catz' screensaver for $1500 instead. It'd be more mobile. They also have a picture gallery for the bandwidth-impaired. I particulary enjoyed the marketing video (the big link at the top) which shows a Japanese teenager cooing over her new toy with some strange music. Very odd, but it's no Mr. Sparkle.
  • At least it won't crap in the middle of the livingroom floor like my wife's dog did this morning. With any luck, these things will be improved to the point I can dump the "real" dog for the electronic version. My only question is how will it get along with the cat I already have? I wonder which will become the alpha in the House?

  • These guys are trying to make home appliances more user friendly....

    ... but the day my furry vacuum cleaner gets out of the closet and wants to "play" is the day I get rid of my intelligent web browser, stomp on my loving MP3 player, and eat the last Pop-Tart from my too-eager toaster. Look for me in the Luddite section at L.L. Bean, please!

  • "Hello, Omron customer support. How can I help you?"

    "I went all the way to Tokyo and paid $1500 for some hot pussy and she gave out after the 5th day"

    "Sir, put your hand inside the pussy and and press that little thing to see if it's turned on"

    "Whoops, sorry. I didn't push hard enough. She's turned on now." Click.

  • For some reason when I first skimmed over the article, I accidentally thought the cat's name was Necro, missing the first "o". Which then led me to think of the term necrophilia [dictionary.com] , which really grossed me out. Not unlike a cat does with it's coughing up fur balls (do they have a subroutine for that?).

    I may not be a Japanese inventor, but I don't think i'd want my invention's name to not remind anyone about sex with the dead. Anyone else have this reaction?

  • also hoped the artificial intelligence and other technologies tested in NeCoRo would find applications in more practical items, such as user-friendly vending machines.

    Share and Enjoy!
  • On the Daily Show. I think this is the first time I've learned about something from psuedonews media before I saw it on slashdot.
  • We're getting plenty of cats and dogs, and that's great, but how about adding some small dragons and unicorns and chocobos into the mix?

    I will say this about Necoro: even though it looks like Toonces or like the cat from Sabrina, at least it looks more or less like a real cat, and not some pathetic imitation of a metallic robot trying to look like a pathetic imitation of a cat.

    • How about some B5 TechnoMagi stuff, like proximinal holography with directed focus that interacts with the localized environment...like a dragon that blows kisses and winks at wonderfully symmetrical females as they walk by, or a succubus on the left shoulder and an angelic angel on the right who whisper words of encouragement ("Gut the worms!" or "Jeelezebubba luvs you--wet kiss sound--"), read your email to you, or start wicked fights with each other only to kiss and make-up later on the desk during lunch.

      Of course this kind of stuff shouldn't be developed by Microsopht(screw us all industries) and made too customer friendly, where a simple worm would transform your dragon into some deformed carricature of what a 13yr old would like to think is them, say a bunch of weird profane crap, and leave holographic turds all over you with a glowing "hacked by" on your back before heading off to infect countless others.

  • Neko = Cat
    Ro = Robot (doumo arigatou, Mr. Robotto)

    It's also a play on words. koro is most of the word 'kokoro', which means 'heart'.

    I wonder what Robot hairballs smell like..
  • Perhaps someone could mirror this before it's totally gone? I used the link [necoro.com] in the background of the picture in the article, and after a bit of browsing found this rather large picture [necoro.com] of two of the cats.

    The link is pretty slow, which is why I hoped someone might mirror it. Hope they can handle some extra load!
  • 'neco' means 'cat' in japanese.
    'Co' is short for 'communication'
    (the C is capitalized since it is embedded in the word neco.)
    'Ro' is short for 'robot'
  • The Necoro-nomicon ?
  • I think the designers of this robot cat ought to integrate the AI portion into the Real Doll [realdoll.com]...

    (Insert your own joke here.)

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