Amagami Ham Ham is for when a teddy bear isn’t enough and a squeeze from a tiny teddy bear doesn’t comfort, not in the same way as, say, you or someone else nibbling your finger.
I first saw this strange robotic creature during CES 2022. It was a cute sequel to the equally strange, but perhaps no less captivating, Yukai Engineering Petite Qoobo robot petwhich was basically a fur pillow with a wagging tail.
This bot, however, was different. It is based on Nemu Nemu Series from Live Heart (opens in new tab), which gives the two bear designs quite specific, almost Anime-style. And instead of calming itself through vibrations and wagging its tail, the Amagami uses its mouth, which is just the right size for the tip of any finger, child or adult.
As the name, which means “soft bite” in Japanese, implies, the teddy bear will chew on your fingertip when you insert it into its small mouth.
Right. It looks…um…unusual.
In January, I only had photos and a GIF to understand this weirdness. I now have Amagami Ham Ham on my desk.
Yukai Engineering sent me a pair of bears to illustrate the two design styles. I decided to unpack just one of them
First, the bear, which costs between $68 and $86 (it’s mostly available on eBay (opens in new tab)), is, perhaps 8 inches tall, smaller than I expected. The body is soft and smooth, though not hairy. There’s a long zipper on the back, which I unzipped to reveal a battery pack. Amagami Ham Ham takes three AA batteries (sold separately) and there is a single switch in the box. I put the batteries in, turned it on, reinserted the plastic case into the bear’s body, and zipped it up.
Amagami Ham Ham is, by default, in a slightly slumped sitting position, and instead of beady eyes staring at me, his eyes are permanently closed, as if he’s sleeping or dreading what’s to come.
I gently held the bear’s back as I cautiously inserted the tip of my index finger into its mouth. Along the bottom edge, under the fabric, I could feel a hard edge, almost like smooth teeth. After a moment, Amagami Ham Ham’s lower jaw rose to gently bite my finger. Even through her skin and stuffing, I could hear the sound of her engines
I pulled my finger and looked in disbelief. It occurred to me that the robot has a pressure sensor in its mouth, but I couldn’t tell if it’s in the back, the sky, or the bottom of the mouth.
Putting my finger back in the toy’s mouth, I noticed that it was now nibbling more enthusiastically, its tiny jaw bobbing up and down. There was never enough pressure to hurt or even keep my finger stuck there, not even enough to bother a small child (I think), but I could feel what I was doing.
There are two algorithmically chosen nibbling modes and I could tell the bear was alternating between slow, rhythmic bites and excited bites.
Yukai engineering believes that this soft nibbling sensation is comforting. They compare it to a baby or small animal nibbling your finger. Right.
I decided to let some co-workers try it out. Everyone was fascinated, scared and a little uncomfortable. They predicted bad things for Amagami Ham Ham if not heeded.
I later introduced the bear to my wife and, without explanation, told her to put her finger in his mouth. She said it was like Amagami Ham Ham was suckling on her finger. I don’t think she liked it.
I can say with some confidence that there is nothing quite like Amagami Ham Ham. The teddy bear robot with the mouth hungry for fingers is alone in the annals of toys, robotics and self-care technology.
I don’t know what to make of it, although I’m trying to write this while my thumb is stuck in Amagami Ham Ham’s mouth.