This is Keepon, my new crush. He was developed by Hideki Kozima who's also kind of cute. Although most people just want to take Keepon home to play, he/she/it/this alien-like life form actually has a purpose. Supposedly he helps autistic kids learn to engage socially. I'm a little torn on this one. He's incredibly engaging -- I must've hung out with him for a total of 40 minutes on and off. I spoke to his maker for a while. I just stood and stared for a long time. I danced with him. But I'm not sure if all of that adds up to anything more meaningful than a cute distraction. My understanding is that autistic kids will fixate on certain objects for long periods of time. That's an intense kind of engagement in itself so in that sense I'm sure Keepon would be a bot of interest. But there's nothing about this cutie that makes me think there's potential for social learning. I'd be more convinced if there were some kind of scaffolding process where the child learns a form of turn taking and incrementally builds on acquired skill sets. But that aside, if they can figure out a way to keep Keepon affordable (and they're working on it), I bet they'd sell millions.
On a slightly different note, check out this video of Keepon that Wired Magazine produced: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPdP1jBfxzo&feature=related