Japanese company’s answer to Amazon Echo: Anime holograms with ‘comforting’ personalities for the lonely

[You have to watch the 2:00 minute video in this story from Motherboard to fully understand the nature of Gatebox, a new embodied virtual assistant from Japan’s Vinclu Inc. As coverage in Vocativ notes, “The plot from Spike Jonze’s movie ‘Her,’ about a man who falls in love with an artificially-intelligent operating system companion, just keeps getting closer to reality.” As detailed in Forbes, the company has just been purchased by South Korea’s Naver, which has 700 million registered users for its LINE messaging app and is developing its own “digital assistant powered by machine learning.” For more details about Gatebox including videos and screenshots, see coverage by Business Insider. –Matthew]

[Image: Source: Ars Technica]

This Japanese Company Wants to Sell You a Tiny Holographic Wife

Like an anime version of Amazon’s Alexa.

Madison Margolin
Dec 14 2016

Gatebox is [a] new holographic home assistant that’s similar to the Amazon Echo’s Alexa, only more anthropomorphic—and creepier. Made by the Japanese company Vinclu Inc, the device is a transparent, voice-activated cylinder that displays a tiny holographic character named Azuma Hikari (presumably, other characters can be added later). Pre-orders for a limited production run of 300 units began today on Gatebox’s website.

Hikari was created to be a “comforting character that is great for those living alone.” The purpose of this cutesy anime character, blue hair, mini skirt, knee high socks and all, is to “do all she can just for the owner”—also referred to as “master.” It seems designed specifically to appeal to lonely bachelors.

In this ad, Azuma wakes her master up in the morning, notifies him of the weather (“Take your umbrella”), and even coddles him with emotional support. During the day, while he’s at work she texts him things like “Come home early” or “I can’t wait to see you.” When he finally gets home at the end of the day, she’s already made sure all the lights are on and jumps up and down inside her little glass frame, exclaiming “Missed you, darling.”

Azuma’s character even comes with her own profile. She’s 20 years old, likes donuts, dislikes insects, and her dream is “to become a heroine to help people who are working hard.” She’s also shown as wearing a wedding ring—needless to say, Gatebox plays up the virtual stay-at-home wife role Azuma is meant to embody.

Azuma lives inside the Gatebox, which is equipped with human detecting sensors and a camera that recognizes the faces and movements of its owner. Moreover, Azuma’s character understands words spoken to her and responds as if in natural conversation. “When you’re tired or just have some free time, why not just touch the button and have a little therapeutic fun with your character,” Gatebox suggests on its website.

The Gatebox also has Bluetooth and infrared data communication technology, which helps it better understand its owner’s life. It comes with a microphone and camera, and even has a built-in humidity sensor. It can connect to other electronics, the internet, and smartphones.

Azuma’s character is meant to have a “healing voice,” while “supporting her master every day.” The more the owner speaks to her, the more she learns about their life and can offer a sense of emotional, albeit virtual, support. According to Gatebox, Azuma allows the owner to “enjoy a life with someone while still retaining your freedom.”

That “freedom” with Azuma doesn’t come cheap: on its website, Gatebox is accepting pre-orders for its initial production of 300 units at 298,000 yen per device, or just over $2,580 USD, with deliveries scheduled for December 2017 (a year from now).

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