If you’re lonely and long for a companion, but hate the personal touch of you know, a real human being, Japanese technology firm Vinclu, Inc. has you covered. For the totally reasonable price of around 300,00 yen, or nearly $2,500 USD, the “Gatebox” can be yours.
The device is a small transparent cylinder equipped with microphones, speakers, and of course, a tiny holographic female character who speaks in a high-pitched, infantile voice. While the company is marketing the device as a home assistant similar to Amazon Alexa or Apple’s Siri, many sources have already jumped to rather creepier conclusions.
The female AI character is a twenty-year-old named Azuma Hikari who loves donuts. Yeah, really. Vinclu’s (Japanese language) website claims she can “grant the dream of closing the distance between you and characters,” depending on your translation. The company designed the character in order to be a companion for people – ostensibly, men – who live alone. Azuma Hikari will send you comforting messages throughout the day and is designed to provide emotional support.
So far, only 300 units are available for preorder on the Gatebox website. The Gatebox is another development in a recent string of Japanese AI products designed to replace or simulate human interaction. Earlier this year, a Japanese firm released a smartphone app which allows dying or elderly users to record images and videos of themselves which are geo tagged to specific locations. Other users can then visit these locations to interact with their deceased loved ones after they pass.
More recently, Japan’s favorite AI schoolgirl construct went on an online bender of leaving angry or depressed messages on her Twitter page, sparking some to fear she might even commit “suicide,” or whatever the AI-equivalent would be. Unplugging? Deletion? Who knows. As long as they shut up while I binge-watch Black Mirror, I’m fine with new AI constructs replacing my smelly human friends.