Japanese electronics giant Sharp joins the smartphone race with a remarkable product presentation. Its new phone offers the ability to learn from interacting with its owners, therefore being able to predict what users want to do next. The phone will gather user data and save it in a cloud system. But to set its phone apart from the competition, Sharp comes with something completely different: the phone is actually a small robot (approximately 7.5 inch) with a 2 inch display on its back.
The phone, called RoBoHon, was presented at the CEATEC consumer electronics show outside Tokio, Japan and appeared to attract a lot of attention. That’s exactly what Sharp intended with the new phone. Where most phone specs are similar between competitors, it’s probably all about the exterior which can make the difference. The RoBoHon’s basic specs are in line with other phones: quad core processer, voice recognition etc etc. But it also offers also a built-in projector to show images, movies or presentations on the wall. The small robot can identify persons by face recognition and is said to offer far reaching digital assistance, for instance by remembering shopping items etc. It can walk and dance too…
The RoBoHon is a bold move by Sharp. Most people may know the brand for microwaves and televisions, but in the recent years the company became more of a supplier to others. The company of the world’s first mechanical pencil is for instance now making liquid-crystal displays for other tablet manufacturers. The company is looking for a turnaround and Reuters recently reported that the Japanese government considers a direct investment in Sharp’s business by one of its funds. Sharp reported a loss in the six months through September 2015 and may find it difficult to achieve its operational profit target of JPY 80 billion (USD 665 million) for the full 12 months (fiscal year ending March 2016).
Can this little tuxedo-dressed fellow save Sharp? When looking at the demonstration video, it’s difficult to imagine someone will use it as an actual (business) phone. However, its features, form and likely artificial intelligence do offer some interesting sale triggers. For instance, RoBoHon may be come in handy for businesses with its built-in projector and speaking / hands-free option. It will definitely grab the attention at presentations. Also for elderly or very young users it could be a nice companion, thanks to its learning curve. Or it can be serve just as a fun tool. RoBoHon’s price is not yet disclosed, so it’s difficult to assess whether it can be a mass product. Nevertheless, in a world were all smart phones look equal, we could use some fun in our lives.