Meet, Azuma Hikari, a 20 year old, 58cm tall holographic virtual assistant built with a machine learning algorithm designed to keep you company and help you get through your day. She is able to recognize her master’s voice, sleep, work and living patterns and communicate via apps anywhere at anytime just as a friend or partner would.
She was created by Japanese technology company Gatebox.ai and she does not come cheap, with an estimated price-tag of $2600 – $3000 USD. The company has been taking pre-orders the past 2 months which closed on Jan 31st after they reached 300. A surprisingly low number to me. You can read more about this on their website.
The Japanese are known to be trend-setters, a couple of years ahead of the curve. Watch this video of how Azuma Hikari helps her master get through his day…it sort of reminds you of a piece out of the movie Her. It also sort of reminds me of a Microsoft Cortana meets Hololens (without the mask).
You can find more videos on their website.
Move aside Miss Alexa, who is the Amazon intelligent virtual assistant. Azuma take’s virtual assistants to the next level. She can chat with you throughout the day, helping you with questions you have, or just keeping you company. She can ask you to come home early if she feels you are overworks or stressed out, or remind you to take an umbrella if she predicts rain.
You can chat with her like you would any other friend and you can get her to do things for you, like transfer money, turn appliances on or off in your home, alert you of intruders and just about anything we are talking about these days with the smart connected home.
It looks like the company is also busy developing a range of favorite, custom or even celebrity/hero mimicking characters to suit anyone wanting to have such an assistant in their lives. Could celebrity heroes offer their personas in the future in the form of holographic virtual assistants?
The hardware right now still weighs 5 kg, has stereo speakers, a microphone, and a camera mounted on top. But this is likely just a clunky prototype of what is to come. In the coming decades, we may see these holographic intelligent virtual assistants resembling more human like form and helping us as any friend or partner would – in the kitchen cooking up a dish, on the couch keeping us company, at our desk helping us learn … in bed…no wait…really? Who knows how far this can go…
Its funny in a way that Azuma is female like her more popular western virtual assistants who all have a female-like names such as Alexa (Amazon), Siri (Apple) and Cortana (Microsoft). Could this be because early adopters are likely male tech nerds wanting to experience the latest in what technology has to offer? Or maybe that females are more trusted and that instinctively they gave birth to us and are our mothers who weened us and nurtured us all in our first years? This is about trust…
Only Google seems to be taking their design in a different direction with a gender-less and name-less approach (well except for “Google” of course) to their assistant with the “Google Assistant” and “Google Home”. They are in the mindset that its your assistant, virgin in all its beauty, never touched by anyone but you…its your assistant. But of course Google is there listen and anticipating your every move…I wrote about this recently.
It will be interesting to follow the development of this space over the coming years as we welcome these assistants into our homes to help us run our smart connected devices, access information and perform routine task. And more interestingly to see our behavior toward technology change as we start to use more natural communication language like speech instead of typing as we communicated with these intelligent virtual assistants.