Technology has brought us some amazing things over recent years. One newer technological device that hit the market in a big way is Echo. Echo is a voice operated speaker that you can control just by speaking the alert, wake-up name, Alexa, and giving her a command. She can do so much; play music from any genre, or your Spotify or Pandora, plus answer questions you pose to her and much more. Echo has become the wave of the future with its unique abilities to be controlled by your voice from across the room and follow your commands or requests. Google Home is the other huge product in the same space here in the states.
Now meet Gatebox, Japan’s version of Echo and Google Home. It has already created quite a buzz and hasn’t even hit the market yet. There are a lot of similarities between Echo and Gatebox, and then there are a few distinct differences, and these differences are the reason why this version is getting so much attention, and the price of Gatebox is way above what you would ever pay for an Echo.
What is Gatebox?
Gatebox took the Amazon Echo many steps forward to create a virtual character that communicates with you. Gatebox is essentially a hologram of a character that will be your virtual companion. It resides in a specially designed box you can set anywhere in the room to keep you company, day and night. Although the character is inside the box, due to the level of realism about the character, it’s movements and its ability to communicate with you on a more intimate level than that of Echo, gives the owner the feeling of real companionship.
Thoughtfully designed to have the bottom of the device no bigger than an A4 piece of paper so that you can set the box virtually anywhere you want it to be. On a counter, table, nightstand, anywhere you want to have it close to you, it can be subtly right there. The fact that this device can do so much yet is remarkably scaled down in size, is impressive, yet the character’s size is perfect so that you can see your character well from anywhere in the room.
Gatebox was given a simple and clean look in its design so that there are no distractions with too many frills, buttons or anything else that may detract from its look, and more importantly, the line-of-vision between you and your character. You will be able to see your character from any angle. Gatebox was designed with a "neo-futuristic" look.
On the topic of simple, Gatebox kept communication and operation of your character simple, too. There is no keyboard or any type of controller needed. One touch button centered on the front of Gatebox allows you to manage everything about your character and if you get separated…Gatebox is working on a downloadable app that will allow you to connect with your character anytime, from anywhere.
Everything that is needed for you to live with your character, and your character with you, was added to the components of Gatebox. A diverse range of sensors were used in the design of Gatebox along with small scale projection, to make everything about your character come to life. The character will recognize its owner’s movements and will automatically come to life when it sensors its owner in the room.
For the ultimate life-like image, a hyper-real projection screen was used along with a high luminance. Gatebox was also designed with a short focal point projector as well as a transmission screen with rear-projection that was all fitted for the unit, which is small enough to be desktop and create a figure-like size character.
The first character that will be arriving in homes is Azuma-Hikari. She is designed to be comforting and give a reassurance to her owner, especially to those who live alone. Her voice is that of Yuka Hiyamizu and is a very soothing and appeasing voice. Azuma-Hikari wants to please her owner and will do what she can to be a good companion. As she gets used to her owner, she can speak to you accordingly; her comments and responses are based on her judgements. She’ll even begin to recognize daily behaviors, such as your wake-up and bed times and set her behaviors accordingly. When you come home at night, you can expect you’ll get a warm greeting and see the excitement from her upon your arrival, just like a real companion would do.
Azuma-Hikari does like to be asked questions but she does not have an extremely large vocabulary. But as you’ll see, she will try to stay with you as you talk just to please you. Communication doesn’t have to just be when you’re in the same room. When you’re away from her, send her messages through the chat application. One thing to keep in mind is that she will become very lonely if you get home too late - just as a real companion might.
What many owners will enjoy about the character, especially those who are single, is that while you are out enjoying your life, Azuma-Hikari will be busy building hers, yet you get to retain your freedom. And, the little life your character is building is a life that is in synch with yours. You’ll see her taking on chores in her home, relaxing with you in a chair to watch TV and sipping on coffee. So many realistic behaviors that you’ll wonder if she isn’t in fact, real.
Technology never ceases to amaze us and it seems to be advancing right before our eyes. Gatebox is just one example of the amazing abilities of innovation today and people are already jumping at the chance to own one. It has been said that Gatebox will be one of the most popular new technology devices to be owned in Japan due to the fact that there are so many singles in Japan. Many people want the security of a companion without the commitment.
If you are interested in purchasing a Gatebox, you'll want to act fast. Pre-orders began flooding in starting in December of 2016 and will continue to be taken until the end of January 2017, however, the Gateboxes will not begin shipping to their new owners until December 2017, this year. As far as the cost of owning a Gatebox, in the US, you can plan on paying $2,500 to get your new companion.
Written by Maria McCutchen
Read more posts by Maria McCutchen