Children pose with Groove X's Lovot at its demonstration during the launching event in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Tokyo - 'Lovot', an amalgam of 'love' and 'robot', cannot help with housework but it will 'draw out your ability to love'
Japanese startup Groove X, founded by an alumni of SoftBank Group's robotics unit, unveiled its first creation on Tuesday - a companion robot designed to make users happy.
The Lovot, an amalgam of "love" and "robot", cannot help with the housework but it will "draw out your ability to love", Groove X founder and chief executive officer Kaname Hayashi told reporters at the launch in Tokyo.
Using artificial intelligence to interact with its surroundings, the wheeled machine resembles a penguin with cartoonish human eyes, has interchangeable outfits and communicates in squeaks. It is designed to mimic affection for users who show it kindness by becoming warm to the touch, going to "sleep" when it's cuddled or following users when called.
Its practical uses are limited to simple tasks like baby monitoring or watching over the house via a camera that users can access through a mobile app while they are out.
While Japan is already a leading manufacturer of industrial robots, Groove X is trying to expand the fledgling market for household robots. It has raised ¥8 billion ($71.1 million) from investors including a Toyota Motor-backed fund, chat app operator Line and the Japanese government.
The Lovot will compete with Sony 's AI-powered robot dog Aibo, revived last year more than a decade after it ceased production.
Hayashi worked on SoftBank's humanoid Pepper robot, which can be found greeting customers in shops and restaurants across Japan but has been a flop with households three years after its launch.
SoftBank has recently increased its focus on more practical robots, last month launching the Whiz autonomous cleaning machine which uses technology from portfolio company US-based Brain.
As with Pepper, Lovot's uptake is likely to be hampered by its hefty price tag of ¥349,000 ($3,100) before tax with ongoing subscription fees. Units will start shipping in late-2019.
Japan ranks lowest among the G7 highly industrialised nations in the United Nations annual happiness ranking.