"At the beginning of the century, [Japan's] toymakers noticed they had a problem: toys are for children and Japan doesn't have many. What to do? In 2005, Tomy began marketing a new doll called Yumel -- a baby boy with a range of 1,200 phrases designed to serve as a companion for the elderly. He says not just the usual things -- "I wuv you" -- but also asks the questions your grandchildren would ask, if you had any: "Why do elephants have long noses?"
Mark Steyn, "America Alone", page 25
Tomy’s new toy is being billed as a ‘healing’ doll, and whereas similar products are aimed at daytime use, Yumel is being touted as a nighttime companion.
Project leader Osamu Kiriseko claims that, “You need to enjoy the night together if you really hope to live with a doll.”
With this in mind, the name Yumel comes from the word ‘yume’ (dream), and it’s designed to look like a sleepy baby boy - albeit one with big and black manga-esque eyes.
And to further enhance the sleepiness factor, the toy is equipped with six sensors and an IC chip, allowing the doll to accurately keep track of its owners sleeping patterns. Thus Yumel starts the day with a breezy “Good morning,” and ends it with drooping eyelids and a drowsy “Good night” after a quick pat on the chest makes it ‘fall asleep’.
Back to Mark Steyn:
"Yumel joins his friend Snuggling Ifbot, a toy designed to have the conversation of a five-year old child, which its makers, with the usual Japanese efficiency, have determined is just enough chit-chat to prevent the old folks going senile."
Also from Tokyotimes, a helpful description of Snuggling Ifbot's helpful nature:
As an example of the robot’s capabilities, given the question, “Today I’m in bad health,” the ifbot responds with, “Perhaps you are overtired. Why don’t you rest today?” And using its internal clock, it can join in a conversation about the weather by knowing what season it is. An absolute necessity it would seem when dealing with the weather obsessed elderly.
"It seems an appropriate comment on the social-democratic state: in a childish infantilized self-absorbed society where adults have been stripped of all responsibility, you need never stop playing with toys. We are the children we never had."