Japanese Gatebox Offers Holographic Virtual Assistant in a Jar
Ron Perillo / 4 years ago
Move aside Alexa, Cortana and Siri, there is a new virtual assistant in town called Azuma Hikari. Unlike other virtual robot assistants with disembodied voices, Azuma Hikari is a virtual animated “waifu” living inside the Gatebox device. Hikari (which translates to “Light”) is sensitive to temperature and motion, freely interacting with the user in a variety of ways. She can recognize the user’s unique face and voice, as well as function as a home-based secretary that can interact via SMS messaging or WiFi even when the user is away from home.
According to her profile page, Hikari is 20 years old, 158cm (scaled to fit inside the jar however, she is much smaller) and loves watching anime as well as eating donuts. Hikari was designed by Taro Minoboshi who also worked on Konami’s Love Plus Sim dating series. Hikari is the only character available for now, but there are plans to add more options including using popular licensed anime characters. The initial production run consists of only 300 units priced at 298,000 Yen (~2,400 Euro) each so it is on the steep side of the virtual assistant market. It can be pre-ordered over at http://gatebox.ai/ but it is only currently available in a Japanese language preset with two voice options and only available in Japan or USA. The sale period is also within a limited time frame from December 14, 2016 through January 31, 2017.
This new virtual home assistant seems to cater to a greater number of young Japanese people who are afraid to leave their homes and lack social interaction. It is estimated to be now around over half a million and affects mostly the male youth. The Japanese health ministry calls the affliction “hikikomori” which first emerged in the 90’s. Single users also comprise of the largest group in the housing market in Japan, now up to 32% so the market for these types of virtual assistant is expected to grow even more.