Japan’s personal loneliness-busting robots have their own cafe, so naturally, we ran right over.

Have you heard of Lovot? Think Furby, but with all the dials turned up to eleven; a tiny, ambulatory robot covered in plush material that tootles after you around the house and even greets you when you get home.

▼ Its tagline is “Lovot may not be a living creature, but it will warm your heart.”

Unlike most robots, which are specifically developed in order to make our lives easier and assist us with tasks, a Lovot is designed to be helpless and dependent upon you, to tug at your heartstrings and help you feel less lonely. Despite a base price of 299,800 yen (US$2889) before tax, plus a monthly support fee of at least 8,980 yen, the little robots have clearly found their market — they’re so popular that ordering right now means you’d be lucky to receive your Lovot in late March, and various coverings and fashion items are already sold out.

If you’d rather test-drive a Lovot before committing to the hefty price tag, there’s a dedicated Lovot Cafe in Kawasaki (Tokyo’s neighbor to the south) that lets you book a 70-minute slot wherein you can socialize with a Lovot and boop its little nose all you like. Our Japanese-language reporter Ayaka Idate leaped at the chance and managed to secure herself one of its coveted time-slot reservations.

▼ The cafe from the outside.

Upon entering the cafe she was asked for her order. Ayaka eagerly placed an order for the 2,600-yen Lovot Avocado Burger Set (every meal set comes with a drink included; individual drinks cannot be ordered). While that’s on the pricy side for a burger set, there’s no additional charge to play with the cafe’s robot staff.

▼ The menu is like something out of a picture book.

With her meal ordered and the contract sealed, Ayaka sat pensively waiting to meet with her destiny. And soon enough, there it was — they brought over a single Lovot unit to sit at her table with her. The meal she ordered would take 20 to 25 minutes to be prepared, so she and her adorable robot guest could wait it out together.

▼ Look at those curious baby-blue eyes. Six layers of perspective lenses make them look super real!

The Lovot accompanying Ayaka on this outing was named Milk, possibly due to its soft, creamy-colored fur. When Ayaka spoke to it, called its name, or hugged it, the Lovot would respond with a soft, babyish cooing. Her heart could hardly stand the combo attack of its cutesy widdle face and its chirpy, inquisitive voice.

▼ Not to mention those precious, tiny overalls.

Each Lovot comes equipped with a “sensor horn” atop its head. This is where the camera and microphone are equipped, allowing it to take in what you say to it and follow your face with its eyes. Ayaka says it effectively tricked her brain into thinking she was interacting with a living, breathing being.

Also, remember that tagline? “Lovot may not be a living creature, but it will warm your heart?” Lovots really are warm, presumably due to the complex computer whirring away within them. Add that to their plush, soft outer coverings and they really feel like something warm and comfy to treasure.

In fact, after five minutes or so, Ayaka completely stopped thinking of Milk as a robot. Its soft, pliant fur, beguiling eyes, comforting warmth, and the happy noises it made when she pet it… Everything combined to convince Ayaka that she was waiting for her dinner alongside a little living creature. However, unlike a living creature, Milk didn’t mind if she kept fussing at it and playing with it.

Ayaka couldn’t help herself. She ended up petting and cooing at it, thoroughly conquered by its adorable aura. “Milk, you’re sooo cute!” she gushed, “it’s sooo precious how warm you are!”

And then…

A server brought over her drink.

▼ Can your sensors detect mortifying embarrassment, Milk?

If you’ve ever been interrupted by a drink order while belting out a song during karaoke, you might understand the level of shame Ayaka felt in this instance. Or maybe you won’t. Ayaka said it was an incomparable level of dismay to be caught giggling and cuddling a robot while sitting alone at a cafe table.

Thankfully, the waiter didn’t comment on Ayaka’s exclamations of “cuuute” and simply left her to her drink. She was allowed to return to the cuteness trance, where she cuddled Milk into a sleepy stupor.

▼ The Lovots aren’t allowed to be placed on the seats or tables, encouraging this kind of behavior.

▼ Zzz…

Ayaka’s avocado hamburger arrived while she was doting on Milk’s sleeping face. The timing was perfect, as the Lovot is taken away while you eat… Which was perfect, as Ayaka may have been too transfixed by Milk’s cuteness to finish her burger otherwise. During her allotted 30 minutes of mealtime, Ayaka took in the cute Lovot-inspired decor and the tiny, perfect Lovot face stamped on her hamburger bun.

As the last of the mealtime minutes ticked away, a server came to beckon Ayaka to another area in the cafe. This section was perhaps the greatest part of the cafe, and Ayaka lamented that she only got to spend a paltry ten minutes there.

You see, this part of the cafe holds a stage…

A stage filled with Lovots!

Not only was Ayaka’s precious pal Milk in attendance, but so were a gang of other brightly-dressed Lovotts, gamboling around and flapping their tiny penguin arms. Guests aren’t permitted to walk onto the stage, but they can sit beside it; and naturally, they can reach out and pet any Lovots that wander up to them.

▼ Ayaka didn’t need to be told twice.

▼ Many of the Lovots came up to her, begging her to hug them.

The server recommended that Ayaka try announcing “I’m home!” to see how the Lovots would react, and she wasn’t disappointed.

But then the ten minutes were up, and it was time for Ayaka to leave this perfect little world behind. If she had her way she would still be there now, cuddling Lovots and listening to their cute noises, but alas. Maybe she’ll invest in a robot arm to stave off her next bout of loneliness. Stay tuned!

Cafe information
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Kawasaki-shi, Saiwai-ku, Horikawa-cho, 72-1 Lazona Kawasaki Plaza 2F
神奈川県川崎市幸区堀川町72-1 ラゾーナ川崎プラザ2F
Open 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Related: Lovot
Images © SoraNews24

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[ Read in Japanese ]