The Bocco Emo has a funny name that might remind you more of your moody teen years, but there’s actually a sneakily useful device behind its cute, simple design. It’s a communication robot that relays voice and text messages to keep in touch with family members who don’t have phones, and it connects via Bluetooth to toy block-like sensors that can monitor temperature, motion, and home activity.
The “Emo” part of its name comes from the robot’s ability to “express empathy,” as its makers describe it. When reacting to positive messages, its cheeks glow green, and it nods enthusiastically with happy chirping sounds. For negative messages containing words like “tired,” its cheeks light up red, and it’ll put its head down and make a sad whining noise. The robot can respond to a user’s presence and voice as well, and it can also interpret messages based on emoji.
Bocco Emo is another charming device from Yukai Engineering, the Japanese company behind Qoobo the headless wagging cat tail pillow. It’s an updated version of the Bocco robot that launched as a Kickstarter in the US in 2015, redesigned into an adorable snowman with a few new features added.
The robot is mainly meant for parents to keep track of younger children or elderly relatives, especially if they don’t have smartphones. Users can set up their phones to receive notifications from the sensors the Bocco Emo connects to, keeping them updated on what’s happening in their home.
There are four types of sensors: a vibration sensor to detect when a door is opened or closed so you know when your kids get home; a lock sensor that detects a magnetic field change so you know when your door is locked or unlocked; a motion sensor that detects when a person or pet is near; and a temperature / humidity sensor, which the company says can be used to prevent heat strokes among the elderly. Notifications are sent to the companion app as a timeline of all the activity happening in the home, and up to eight sensors can be paired at a time.
The Bocco Emo contains a microphone and speaker, but there’s no camera. It’s less of a “home security device” and more of a simple tool to keep track of when your children get home from school or to check if you locked your doors when you left the house. In Japan, the original Bocco plays a bigger role in serving the country’s aging population. It’s currently used with home security company Secom’s elderly monitoring service, which provides companionship through conversation and checking in on customers’ mental and physical well-being.
The Bocco Emo will cost around $200 when it launches in the US sometime this fall.