Asia-Pacific

Japan's cat's ear headset that matches your mood

Japanese inventors have devised a gadget to make you prick up your ears - electronic cat's ears.

Strap on the furry headgear, and its ears are programmed to move in ways that reflect the user's inner mood.

Necomimi, as the toy is called, uses sensors to measure brainwaves, and the cat's ears perk up or flatten accordingly.

The manufacturer, Neurowear, hope to have the product on the market by the end of the year.

It aims to capitalise on Japan's dual fascination with cuteness and experimental hi-tech.

Play on words

"We were exploring new ways of communicating and we thought it would be interesting to use brainwaves," said Neurowear's Kana Nakano.

"Because the sensors must be attached to the head, we tried to come up with something cute and catchy."

The prototype model has been developed in black and white versions with a sensor produced by a Silicon Valley-based partner company.

The fluffy headwear reads the users' brain activity, and generates a matching expression; the ears perk up when they concentrate or flop down when users enter a relaxed state of mind, say the developers.

The name Necomimi is a play on the Japanese words for cat and ear, but the first two syllables are also short for "neuro communication", according to Neurowear.

"Brainwave sensors used for medical equipment cost several million yen, but falling costs have allowed people like us to seek interesting ways to use them," said Tomonori Kagaya, one of the team, to the news agency AFP.

The price of the product has not yet been set, but potential buyers are all ears.

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