UniFa Co Ltd announced that it has started to provide a service using the world's first robot designed for monitoring a kindergarten.
The robot, "Meebo," can take pictures, dance, etc. Though the monthly rental fee for the robot is ¥9,800 (approx US$78.5), it can be practically rented for free because of the business model of UniFa's "Rukumi" service for providing pictures, said Yasuyuki Toki, president of UniFa.
The Rukumi, which can be pronounced as "look me," is a service for kindergartens and nursery schools and for sorting out pictures, uploading them to websites for viewing and selling pictures in an automated way.
Currently, kindergartens and nursery schools do not have to pay for the service (initial cost, rental fee, etc). On the contrary, when pictures are purchased, UniFa pays a share of the profit to them.
"In a model case, we pay about 20,000 yen per month to a kindergarten or nursery school with 100 children," Toki said.
By allocating the money to the rental fee for the robot, the robot can be rented practically free of charge.
"We will spread the use of the practically free Meebo in kindergartens and nursery schools at an accelerated rate," he said.
The Meebo was developed based on Vstone Co Ltd's "Sota" robot. But there were other candidates including SoftBank Robotics Corp's "Pepper" and MIT's "Jibo."
"In consideration of price, safety and flexible development in response to requests, we employed the Sota," Toki said.
UniFa is planning to add functions such as for measuring body temperature and giving a quiz. It aims to lease 10,000 units of the robot by 2018.