Students at Japan's University of Tsukuba have created a realistic robot baby in hopes of motivating young couples to want children.
The robot baby, named Yotara, was created with touch sensors by the students of the Graduate School of Comprehensive Human Sciences at the university last year.
When a rattle is shaken the robot "wakes up" and giggles. He can sulk, doze off, smile when his tummy is rubbed, and even sneeze and have a runny nose due to a heated water pump system.
The robot's facial features are beamed onto a warm silicon balloon "face" by a projector. His facial expressions and body movements will change according to the pressure applied to different parts of its body. Through the touch sensors under the silicon skin, information is processed by a special program to change the baby's expression projected onto the balloon-face.
The robot baby wears a little hat with bear ears and comes with a blanket to cover its "body" with limbs that simulate a real baby's wiggling by using a geared motor.
Project leader Hiroki Kunimura said: "We wanted to create a new type of robot that is soft, cuddly and cute. We'd like people to experience the innocent, joyful expressions typical of small babies. Through this experience, it would be great if some people started feeling that they wanted to have their own baby, if they started feeling that working is not everything."
With Japan's birth rate being among the lowest in the developed world at 1.37%, compared to 2.12% in the United States and 1.84% in Britain, Japan is facing serious economic consequences with over a quarter of its citizens expected to be over the age of 65 by 2015.
If the birth rate does not increase within the next 50 years, Japan's population is expected to shrink by a third.