“Her” IRL : Sharp’s RoBoHoN

After Scarlett Johansson spent two hours whispering sweet pop-tuned nothings into the sybaritic ear of Joaquin Phoenix, I couldn’t help but laugh off the literal interpretation of their love affair in favour of a deeper analysis of human-machine interactions and their often striking parallels with interpersonal relationships.i Real AI-human romance – at least to my mind back in early 2014 when I saw “Her” in theatres – was as far-fetched as 100% autonomous cars. It was a fanciful dream of despairing loners alienated by a suburban society predicated on vapid likes, hearts, and clicks. Nothing more, surely.

But Sharp wasn’t laughing. And now neither am I.

Just announced for May 2016 launch in the Japanese mobile market, Sharp’s RoBoHoN,ii as seen in the trailer above, is a smartphone cum humanoid companion that I’m willing to bet sound money will easily surpass the firm’s 5`000 monthly unit sales target.

Go figure that, just as I thought I’d ever-so-slightly prematurely crossed the threshold where “everything new before you turn 30 is exciting and awesome whereas everything new after you’ve turned 30 is weird and incomprehensible,”iii – certainly a sense I’ve had of late when confronted with the prospect of everything from sensor-vajazzled automobiles doing anything other than timidly steering like aged grandmothers that serve more to confuse rather than assist,iv much to the consternation of everyone on the road, the autocar’s passengers included, to drones/quadcopters as being anything other than another GoPro-style flash-in-the-pan craze [albeit it a briefly profitable one], to the persistence of the gluten-free craze,v to the Apple Watch or Google Glass or Connor McDavid or a seemingly endless string of highly dubious claims as to “revolutionary” this and “disruptive” that besides – this comes along and I somehow I can totally, legitimately see it taking off. And for some pretty basic psychosocial reasons too.

Paired with bluetooth headphones to save from both potential humiliation, general awkwardness, and noise pollution,vi this little botphone is useful enough, charming enough, practical enough, and darn-tootin’ one of the plain cutest little sons of bitches in the electronics market. I obviously wouldn’t be caught dead with one – I still flip-flop between flip-phones and smart-phones – but I’m neither a trendy young girl nor a lonely senior.

At 198,000 yen they’re not cheap toys, but that the RoBoHoN incorporates a device that no one leaves the house without anyways – their cellphone – it immediately boasts infinitely better prospects than Sony’s AIBO dog or any other number of “smart” pieces of electroshit.vii Also, at this pumped-up price point, there’s instant out-of-the-box cachet for those raised to equate quality with expensiveness.

The first-gen RoBoHoN, at 7.7″ tall and almost a pound in mass, is no pint-size tinkerbell either, but that also means that neither will it be easily lost or misplaced. In terms of technical dimensions, ie. tech specs, amongst a sea of 8K UHD quad-core smartphones with 6″ screens and 32MP cameras, it’s itself remarkable for its unabashedly meagre showing on paper. With just a two-inch rear screen, the Android-based robophone has an 8MP camera and a nifty 1280×720 front-mounted projector, and not much else besides unless you count the ugly girl’s favourite crutch : “personality.” The modestness of these tech specs not only makes the little feller that much more endearing (no one wants to cuddle up next to cold-edged perfection), but also leaves considerable room for improvement in subsequent iterations.

Whether Sharp goes down in history as repeating the mistakes of the iRiver or the successes of the iPod in this nascent space remains to be seen, but suffice to say that you shouldn’t be surprised to see one of these walking, talking cellphones at a junior high or seniors homes near you tout de suite. Even if it won’t walk and talk like Her just yet, you won’t be able to help but be astounded at the depths of the relationships its owners will form with it.viii

Think you’re attached to your cellphone now ? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

___ ___ ___

  1. eg.
    cinquecento sexy times

    Because this is how we fail now.

  2. Sharp is owned by Chinese mega-maker Apple Foxconn, which just recently purchased two-thirds of the century-old Japanese firm for $3.5 bn.
  3. And only just now am I double-checking my mental quote sources and realising that I have another half-decade to spare! Oh thank you baby Jesus! The original quote from Douglas Adams is thus :

    I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies: 1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. 2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. 3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

  4. Lest you think there’s any contradiction here : traffic and road environments are markedly more variable and unpredicatable than basic interpersonal relationships. The former requires that all possible eventualities are considered, accounted for, accurately measured, and accurately responded to in real-time ; the latter can make it pretty damn far with just “cuteness” factor, as demonstrated by Tamagotchi.
  5. Despite myself being allergic… for the most part.
  6. If there’s any kind of deadly pollution afflicting the health and well-being of mankind at the moment, it’s noise pollution. Seriously, where the fuck does Edmonton’s public transit authority get off spewing ads from overhead TVs while I’m waiting for the light-rail train ?!
  7. Including Boston Dynamics’ eerie robo-reindeer.
  8. Think KITT from Knight Rider.

3 thoughts on ““Her” IRL : Sharp’s RoBoHoN

  1. […] language and demographics, if not a bit of jew-style self-loathing that doesn’t really map to the wild and wacky Japanese culture we know and love today. […]

  2. […] and I took a rare opportunity for low-skilled manual labour in a world awash with robots, and like Tom Sawyer, managed to make it look like we were enjoying ourselves enough to […]

  3. Pete D. says:

    Oh snap there’s a new RoBoHoN! This is actually a great sign for the future of the product. Japanese firms are all-too-frequently guilty of investing untold resources into products of nearly unsurpassed quality before mothballing the project after a single (if prolonged) model cycle, eg. Honda S2000, Lexus LFA, etc.

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