Japanese electronics giant Sharp has launched RoBoHon, a 7-in tall personal robot that can talk, dance, take photos, search the web to answer questions, as well as answer calls like a regular smartphone. From today (15 April), RoBoHon will be available in Japan to buy for the princely sum of $1,800 (£1,268, ¥196,000) each. The robot runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop and features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, as well as 3G and 4G connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.
The screen is located on the back of the robot while the 8mp camera sits between the robot's eyes on its head, and essentially it can operate just like a regular smartphone whereby the user initiates apps to get the robot to make phone calls, send SMS text messages or take a picture.
The robot also comes with artificially intelligent voice and facial recognition and is programmed to respond to and hold conversations, whereby the robot learns more about the user over time. The voice recognition function also enables the user to give the robot specific commands, such as asking the robot to dance or reel off a string of facts found on Wikipedia, for example.
In July 2014, when Japanese inventor Tomotaka Takahashi first told IBTimes UK that he dreamed of a world where robots were pocket-sized companions that could also double up as mobile devices, we thought it was a nice − if wishful − idea, but it's impressive how quickly he has managed to realise his vision, with the backing of a major electronics firm no less.
"Smartphones already have voice recognition technology but it is not used much as people are not comfortable talking to a grey black box. If it had a human shape, we would be willing to talk to it. In five years, robots will be as small as smartphones, becoming like a Tinker Bell or Jiminy Cricket that you can put in your pocket," Takahashi said at the time.
"Smartphone growth is now slowing down and people want to find something to be the next smartphone. I am now designing a robot to be the next communication device. It will be able to talk like a phone. It can move, but it will also have a touchscreen and act like a small computer."
Takahashi, the CEO of Robo Garage Co, is already well known in Japan for his line of robots, such as the 13.3-in tall Robi and the Guiness World Record-winning robot astronaut Kirobo. Enthusiasts can eventually have the complete robot if they purchase all 70 weekly subscription magazine model kits in order to get all the motorised parts. According to partwork publisher De Agostini UK, the total cost of the robot comes to £895.30. More than 100,000 units of the product been sold so far in Japan and over 30% of the collectors are female.
At the moment, RoBoHon is only available to Japanese residents as users have to subscribe to a cloud service powering the robot's intelligence, but hopefully if the robot is popular in Japan, robot enthusiasts will be able to persuade Sharp to make an English version tied to a cloud service for the rest of the world.