The future is apparently here. And it’s creepier than we could have ever imagined, even when we were playing with Teddy Ruxpin tethering to the internet. A Japanese company called Vinclu (“a company that makes crazy things and supports crazy people”) is now taking pre-orders from Japan and the United States for a new interactive artificial intelligence-powered home automation system. Called Gatebox, the new Internet-of-Things product takes Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, Spike Jonze’s movie Hairand the “holographic” anime characters of Vocaloid concerts to their unified natural conclusion.
Gatebox, priced at ¥321,840 (about $2,700 US), is aimed entirely at young lonely payroll men and all brands of anime-obsessed otaku – promising the experience of “living with your favorite character.” The size of a home coffee maker, with a footprint no bigger than a sheet of A4 printer paper, the main feature of the device is a see-through projection tube that displays a computer-animated avatar for the “character” of the AI. Vinclu is apparently planning multiple possible personalities for Gatebox, which, as part of the device’s backstory, is a gateway to the dimension the character lives in.
Gatebox communicates with the owner through its animated persona and responds to voice interactions. It can also send and receive text messages when its “master” is not at home, communicating with each other in a certain way like a … domestic partner. And the Gatebox can also control smart home appliances such as lamps and robot vacuums, so when you get home from work, your holographic waifu will have the lights on for you and done the cleaning.
The first character, named Azuma Hikari, is “a comforting female character who is great for people living alone,” Gatebox’s website says. “She will always do everything she can, just for the owner.” Voiced by Japanese actress Yuka Hiyamizu, the character has her own website with a backstory manga explaining how she was invited to traverse dimensions for a “homestay” with a master on Earth. “Enjoy this unprecedented leap between dimensions that will result in a new, shared lifestyle,” the Gatebox site promises.
A hint of what that “new, shared lifestyle” would look like is teased in Gatebox’s product launch video:
List image by vinclu