Could a Pocket-Sized Robot Replace Your Smartphone?

Tomotaka Takahashi, CEO of Robo Garage, is developing a pocket-sized robot that can move, express emotions, and socialize with you. He thinks it could replace your smartphone.

Photo Caption: This is Robi, a companion robot developed by Tomotaka Takahashi, CEO Robo Garage. Takahashi is working on the next generation of Robi, which he says could replace smartphones.

Could you live without your smartphone? The answer would certainly be a resounding no for most, myself included.

Tomotaka Takahashi, CEO of robot design company Robo Garage and research associate professor at the University of Tokyo, is hoping we’ll change our minds.

The Huffington Post reports Takahashi is developing a personal, pocket-sized robot that could be the next smartphone. The unnamed robot, which Takahashi talked about at The WorldPost Future of Work Conference in London, is just a prototype at this point, but he hopes it will hit the market in the next year.

The personal robot reportedly has a head and limbs, can walk and dance, and expresses emotions through gestures and color-changing eyes. According to the report, Takahashi says he’s working with a “well-known company” to mass-produce the robot, which he adds will be the size of an iPhone 6, have a similar battery life, and cost about $2,000.

Takahashi, the report says, believes humans are getting tired of virtual communication. He even says we will rely heavily on personal robots in the future because they “will know you better than anyone.”

So what are some things this pocket-sized friend can do? Here’s more from the Huffington Post:

For example, instead of sharing a stunning photo on Instagram or your thoughts on an interesting movie on Twitter, you could talk about it with your robot in the moment. Not only that, but your robot would remember the shared experience, years later. Your relationship with your robot would be strengthened over time by the memories that you share together, Takahashi said.

In addition to experiences, you could also share thoughts and feelings with your robot. “Right now, we can talk to our phone to ask for our schedule or send an email, but that’s more of a direction,” said Takahashi. “When we have small robots, we’ll say things to it like ‘Today’s cold’ or ‘I’m sad’—things more related to our fundamental emotions. He doesn’t have to say something very useful back. Just respond like a human would.”

You could use your pocket robot for lots of other things too. If you tell your robot you’re hungry, it could remind you when you last ate, or tell you that around the corner, there’s a sushi place (which your robot would know is your favorite type of food). Your robot could also help you better connect with humans, Takahashi said. For example, if you’re about to meet a new co-worker, your robot could—after scanning the Internet or that person’s robot—tell you that the new co-worker shares a hobby with you.

And there’s great commercial potential. The more information a device collects, the more lucrative it is. Your shopping recommendations on Amazon would be spot on, Takahashi said.

In 2012, Takahashi developed a companion robot called Robi (watch the video below). Standing 13 inches tall, Robi has voice recognition, can move, speak and understand five languages, and detect movement. As Fusion points out, this pocket-sized robot is essentially Robi 2.0.

There are other personal robots on the market or in development, including Pepper, Jibo, Robotbase, Furo and Romo. The difference is Takahashi’s robot is much smaller and could be with you more often than the others.



About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe:  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.


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