Photo: Groove X
Aibo Sony2/3
Photo: Sony
Photo: Yukai Engineering

Meet Japan's robot pets and companions

From therapy tails to penguins on wheels, these robots from Japan will keep you company in self-isolation

By Kasey Furutani

Quarantine, self-isolation and staying home is much easier when you’re surrounded by loving family members and furry pets, but Tokyo singletons often find themselves in shoebox apartments with nothing but Netflix and phone games for company. Many of us long for animal companionship, but having a pet is difficult in the city; strict building rules and the lack of a yard are just a couple of problems. Luckily, this is the 21st century and we can cuddle up with some robotic companions instead. Tamagotchi these are not; here are some of the cute, weird and very advanced robots that provide comfort and love – all with a price tag, of course.

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Meet your new robot pets

Aibo Sony robot pets
Photo: Sony


You can’t teach an old dog new tricks but you can program a robot dog. Sony’s Aibo has been around since 1999 but the most recent model comes with new APIs so the owner can program Aibo to recognise objects and movements; the mechanical mutt can also be ‘potty trained’.

Ideal for apartment dwellers, Aibo is just as playful as a regular puppy, minus the warm affection and shedding. Good thing Aibo won’t bother the neighbours with endless yapping – you can program that right out. From ¥198,000

Qoobo robot pet
Photo: Yukai Engineering


Sometimes the best part of having a pet is the warm and furry affection. Not quite a dog or a cat, Qoobo is an affordable therapy robot that responds to touch. When stroked lightly, its tail will move gently and when played with, the tail will move quickly, like a dog having fun. Qoobo is the perfect pal to mindlessly pet while reading a book or scrolling through Instagram. Keep an eye out for Qoobo’s child, a petite size pillow-bot that responds to both touch and sound, which will be released in November this year. From ¥12,120

Lovot robot pets
Photo: Groove X


Deriving from the words ‘love’ and ‘robot’, the penguin-like Lovot doesn’t do much besides follow you around the house on its wheel feet, watch you from a webcam ‘horn’ atop its head and love you. Everything about Lovot is made to create an emotional bond: it begs to be touched, coos when hugged and will ignore you if treated poorly. If you become really attached to your Lovot, you can even purchase a matching wardrobe for it. From ¥299,800

Bocco emo robot pet
Photo: Yukai Engineering

Bocco Emo

The clown-like Bocco Emo has a deeper task than just sitting around looking like a Dalek in a snowman costume. The robot is used to relay messages: parents can record a message in the morning and Bocco Emo will play it to the kids after school. Unlike the first-gen Bocco, which only relays messages, Bocco Emo also shows emotion. Humans can confide in the robot and Bocco Emo’s cheeks will glow and either chirp or whine in response, depending on the word choice. Bocco is priced from ¥29,000; Bocco Emo will be released soon.

Paro robot pet
Photo: Paro Therapeutic Robot


Designed to comfort hospital patients and the elderly, baby harp seal Paro is a therapy robot that responds to touch, sound and eye contact. The highly-advanced seal is customisable: Paro will learn to respond to its owner’s voice and actions, and when stroked, Paro learns to repeat the same actions to be touched again. Patients with dementia respond positively to Paro’s movements and barks, much like interacting with a hospital therapy animal. Price upon request

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