Cold Fish Companions

First there were robot dogs. Then robot cats. Now Japan's third largest toy maker is betting that the craze for virtual pets will take to the water.....


Papuan Jellyfish (Mastigias papua)

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The latest addition to the menagerie of cyberpets is the "Aquaroid". This robot jellyfish is said to soothe tattered nerves and is proving an unexpected hit with overworked men at the end of their tether.

This is the first robotic pet that "lives" in water, floats up and down and wafts from side to side, mimicking the silken movements of a jellyfish. The effect is hypnotic and owners - largely busy, male white-coller workers in need of a calm, compliant companion - are said to spend hours staring into the glass tank that houses the creature.

The toys manufacturer, Takara Co., claims that the solar powered robot, about the size of a human hand, has special therapeutic benefits. "Observing the gentle rhythms of the jellyfish has a healing effect" Terumi Endo, a spokeswoman, said. "Research shows it is good for soothing nerves and alleviating stress."

In addition to the jellyfish companion the "Aquaroid" line also includes a school of robot fish, a shrimp, and a crab. The fins, tentacles and pincers are all activated by solar powered batteries, and a computer brain keeps collisions with other marine life and aquarium walls to a minimum.


Collection of Moon Jellies (Aurelia aurita)

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This ingenious new toy is being snapped up from Tokoyo stores. However, these "cold fish" companions are not targetted at the younger shoppers with a price tag of 50,000 yen (£280). The company hopes that the line will appeal to mechanically-minded twenty and thirtysomethings.

Takara plans to export the robopets to the United Staes and to Britain but has expressed concern that the water quality might not be suitable.

"Aquaroid functions well in Japanese tapwater," Ms Endo said, "but we cannot guarantee it will work as well in another environment. We first have to check that British water is suitable."




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