The Sharp Corp. robot vacuum cleaner on display at the ongoing CEATEC trade show is no mere machine.

Dubbed Cocorobo, it collaborates with a singing voice synthesizer software called Vocaloid and can hold simple conversations and even sing to people.

The Osaka-based firm has been gearing up efforts to make home electronics that can connect to the internet and use artificial intelligence to strengthen the bond with people.

But while the appliance seems to work well, its marketing may have gone a little haywire.

Sharp says the idea is that a Vocaloid anime character named Cocorobo lives inside the cleaner. It listens to users and learns about them, they say, and sings songs they might like.

For instance, the robot will play a cheerful song if it senses during the course of conversation that users are feeling depressed.

During a demonstration on Wednesday, the round robot helper, which bears the image of an anime character with big oblong eyes and pinkish hair on its top, plays songs while moving around a floor continually.

Vocaloid is a kind of voice synthesizing software that allows users to create songs by inputting lyrics and a melody. There are many different Vocaloids, which are sold as characters, such as Hatsune Miku.

Sharp already sells the Cocorobo robot vacuum, but it is considering launching a Vocaloid-equipped version featuring its original character and songs.

The firm is displaying the prototype at CEATEC to gauge people’s reactions.

But why singing?

“We just thought it would be fun,” said a Sharp representative at the firm’s booth, adding that rather than enriching the device with technical functions, Sharp wanted the product to appeal to people on an emotional level.

The representative warned that the Cocorobo Vocaloid character itself has feelings, and if it is feeling grumpy, it won’t sing to users.

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