I’m not a cat person, never have been, and it translated into my writing too, thanks to my enormous hatred for all things Hello Kitty. Years later, I am looking at one more cat, and I have to admit it’s a lot like Hello Kitty but dissimilar. The part where the cat stares at you all day long with big, engaging eyes is common, and that’s mostly it (thank god). Panasonic’s sock cat Nicobo is a cute companion robot aimed at helping people who are isolating or social distancing during the pandemic and are unable to own a cat. This cutesy creation made in partnership with Toyohashi University of Technology Michio Oka Laboratory comes with a soft sock-like fabric exterior. It can wag its tail, turn around, blink its little eyes, and talk a bit. Nicobo is equipped with touch sensors, too, so it can react when you touch it, and it farts when it wants to! Panasonic’s pet robot cats movements around the house may be limited, but it can be aloof like a real cat and produces flatulence at will and might even choose to not respond to you as much as usual.
Nicobo will not be much of a talker, although it will start with one word and eventually learn to speak full Japanese sentences with toddler-level proficiency. Nicobo can recognize your face and voice and turn towards you using built-in microphones and cameras. If you want a Nicobo in your life, it won’t be an easy task as Panasonic only plans on making 320 units for around $360 each, all of which have already sold out on pre-order.