CES 2021 may be a little different to previous years, but it hasn't disappointed in the cute robots department – and this may be the most adorable AI creature we have ever seen.
Created by Vanguard Industries with a successful Kickstarter campaign (opens in new tab) , Moflin is an AI pet robot with "emotional capabilities", and it looks like a fluffy gray guinea pig, with black beady eyes and soft fur.
If it's love at first sight, you'll be pleased to know that Moflin can learn to love you back – well, sort of.
Vanguard Industries says that its unique algorithm allows Moflin to learn and grow, using built-in sensors to evaluate its surroundings. These sensors include accelerometers with gyroscopes, touch sensors, and microphones.
That means its capable of distinguishing between different people depending on how they interact with it, and can express its 'feelings' accordingly, through movements and unbearably cute sounds that were inspired by real animal noises.
According to the company, each Moflin will develop an individual personality over time, depending on the environment and "how their owners treat them", with possible emotions including anxious, calm, happy, excited, and more – just like a real pet.
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Even the way Moflin charges is cute. When it needs a top up, you place it in a nest-like wireless charging cradle – and when you do, Moflin will make "cute sounds and small reactions" like a real sleeping animal would.
According to the specifications listed on the Kickstarter campaign page, Moflin comes equipped with Bluetooth 4.2 wireless connectivity, and an app for iOS and Android (though the company has't shared any information on how the app will work yet).
Over the years, CES has brought us lots of pet-like robots, designed to bring a little fun as well as emotional support and company into their owners lives.
Robot pets are nothing new (Sony's dog-bot Aibo made its debut in 1999), but the new generation of mechanical beasts are quite different; all soft fur and limpid eyes, designed to appeal to our need to protect and nurture.
With cuddly bodies and the ability to react to interactions with humans, these robot pets could be used to alleviate loneliness in the elderly, teach children how to care for animals before they try the real thing, and allow people in small apartments the chance to care for a creature without risking their security deposit.
Unfortunately, robot pets rarely come cheap.
Vanguard Industries says that it aims to successfully deliver its first Moflin in March, and you can get your hands on one by pledging $400 (about £290 / AU$500), with delivery expected by June 2021.
That's no small amount to spend, but compared to the price of caring for a real pet over its lifetime, it's not unreasonable. After all, can you really put a price on love?
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