Gatebox, holographic virtual assistant, launches pre-orders for geeks in Japan, US

Vinclu CEO Minori Takechi

See the original story in Japanese.

A holographic virtual assistant created in Japan has been unveiled. It’s called Gatebox, displaying 2D characters in hologram image and allowing you to be one with, has finally been brought forth.

The developer Vinclu launched pre-orders on its official website last week and will send them out within December of 2017. The price was set at 298,000 yen (about $2,500) and the shipping destinations are limited to Japan and the US. The firm has been accepting pre-orders since December 14 and will until January 31 of 2017 for the first production lot of 300 items.

The product size is 220mm in width, 360mm in depth, 520mm in height and the weight is 5kg. The projection area for the hologram corresponds to 1280×720 pixels, realizing a visual experience with virtual appearance by projecting images on the panel from the rear portion of the case body. I actually tried a product and found that the projection area was surrounded by the case body in order to support visual recognition even in a bright place.

A girl named Azuma Hikari was adopted as Vinclu’s original character contributed by Taro Minoboshi who were in charge of the character design of a dating simulation game Tokimeki Memorial.

Touch buttons, camera and microphone are equipped on the main body to enable conversation with the character, and it recognizes owner’s movement and makes the character follow by combining information from implemented motion sensors. Using a mobile app available for Android and iOS, users can enjoy online communication with the character linked via Wifi or wired LAN.

Enough spec explanation, let’s see the actual use video. According to Vinclu CEO Minori Takechi, this video was shot using a device and an image actually used for products.

Well, how was it? To be honest, I suppose the road will divide whether you felt a sense of future in it or just a pricey Otaku gadget.

Of course, their concept is in the same context with the artificial intelligence (AI) assistant and the smart home including Amazon Echo, Google Home and Siri. They bring a toilet paper or water if you speak to it, or play an energetic music when you are depressed. Pepper developed by Softbank took the lead in this field, or recently there has been a veteran startup aiming at establishing an “autonomous driving house.”

But those are completely different from Takechi’s purpose. What his team is pursuing is not these rational services. They do not want to develop merely a device just to ask for shopping services to an insipid mechanical box.

He wanted to produce a ‘wife’ so he secured hundreds of millions of yen from investors and actually carried out the plan.

Indeed, the application of Gatebox is still limited though. As you see in the above video, it only exists to communicate or to turn on the light from when the owner wakes up and till bedtime arrives at night. In other word, I think they are crazy to have launched the product focusing only on these functions. Although you can purchase Amazon Echo only for about $200 now, how many people in the world will pay $2,500 for it?

No, some people on this planet may dare to desire this existence due to the limitation of functions conversely. In fact, the viewcount of the promotion movie on Youtube exceeded 300,000.

Gatebox has an interesting feature: an external input. It enables projection of original images from user PCs via HDMI. There must be requests from users to project their own original characters. Takechi recognizes these high demands and will meet them in the future.

This product can be said to be an approach related to “center of home” which is unique to Japan, and how will it be evaluated by the world.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy and Masaru Ikeda