The latest phone from Sharp might remind you more of C-3PO from Star Wars than the iPhone. That’s because the RoboHon is part mobile phone, part tiny robot. The design of the unusual device is sure to appeal to children and, given their penchant for adding robots to everything, the Japanese public in general. The RoboHon is scheduled to go on sale in the first half of 2016.
Sharp seems to be hoping that the smiling little robot is able to connect with users in a deeper, more emotional way than the traditional Android and iPhone handsets. Calling RoboHon (a combination of the words robot and phone) a “heart-moving phone,” Sharp is playing up the device’s emotive features.
“RoboHon is a phone you have never seen before. A phone in human shape," according to Sharp. "A phone that you feel like talking to. A phone that also wants to know you. Don’t you want to take RoboHon with you everywhere?”
Advanced Voice Recognition
Although the teaser video on Sharp’s RoboHon Web site shows young professionals toting the robots around in their breast pockets and using them to field calls and text messages, the phone’s toy-like appearance and childish voice indicate that the company does not exactly have high-powered executives in mind as its core market.
But despite the cutesy body, which can move both its arms and legs and is capable of sitting and walking, RoboHon also comes packed with a number of impressive features. The phone can read messages to the user aloud, understand natural language commands, and respond to messages with a voice-to-text feature.
It also has a calendar function that allows it to verbally remind users of events scheduled throughout the day, and can accept spoken commands to add other reminders, such as shopping lists. Although the little robot only has a two-inch QVGA screen that can’t support graphic-heavy activities such as Web browsing, it is able to display information thanks to a built-in projector.
It also comes with a front-facing camera (hidden in the eyes, perhaps?) and can take video, too. Oh, and if your iPad ever breaks, RoboHon can entertain your toddler as an autonomous, walking, talking, robot.
Just for Kids?
One area where RoboHon doesn’t seem to be particularly advanced is its size and weight. With a height of about 7.7 inches and tipping the scales at 13.75 ounces, the little guy isn’t going to set any records for its form factor. Its MSM 8926 1.2 GHz quad-core processor is also unlikely to impress power users.
Beyond that, Smart hasn’t said much about the phone’s specs or other performance capabilities. However, Sharp seems to be hinting that RoboHon has some level of behavioral autonomy, according to the promo video on its Web site. For example, the robot is shown responding to emotional stimuli such as someone crying, apparently of its own volition. The video also shows RoboHon directing people to squeeze in as it takes a picture, all without any apparent instruction from a user.
If RoboHon can really deliver on that sort of autonomous functionality that makes it feel less like a phone and more like a friend, Sharp may be able to appeal to consumers looking for an early prototype of an intelligent operating system similar to the phone depicted in the movie “Her.”