Gatebox have attracted some attention online, with a recent article about them coming to the west… After being “Westernized.”
For those unfamiliar with our prior coverage, Gatebox creates a “holographic” virtual home assistant akin to Alexa, interacting with lights, TV, Roombas, and more, all by voice command and texts. It usually projects the image of a female anime character, complete with voice acting [1, 2, 3, 4]. It will even recognize their user’s face.
Engadget reported (and Tweeted) Keyshare Innovation Group have partnered with New Zealand (the company behind Gatebox) to “essentially rebuild Gatebox’s AI assistant from the ground up.” While you may suspect at best the device would need subtitles or an English dub, the changes are far more drastic.
In addition to the projection and mirror giving the illusion of a 3D image now being a flat tablet screen inside half a tube, (though still keeping the motion sensors and cameras), the avatars are now realistic human men and women.
In Engadget’s accompanying video from CES 2020 (and Tweet), Chris Velazco (Engadget’s Senior Editor and author of the article) explains the reason for the change is to make it more “palatable” to western customers.
“It’s a holographic anime girl who serves as some sort of personal companion. You can ask her questions, you can have conversations with her, it does sort of feel like more of an emotional kind of virtual assistant than a practical one. But, there she is.
[…] What’s really interesting is that an American company has actually decided, you know what, let’s take this idea and make it palatable to the Western world, because millennials love anime, but not everyone is gonna shell out $1,500 for a girl in a tube that always speaks Japanese.
Now as far as we’ve been able to gather, an American company in conjunction with New Zealand developers worked on Hikari here [the 3D model in the Gatebox], and basically stripped out all the innate cultural Japanese-ness, and replaced it with a system that feels more palatable to Western customers.”
Velazco further explains that the westernized device may soon be heading to an unnamed cruise-line to act as a 24/7 concierges within “the next couple of months.” He also proposes it could be used in gyms to check people in and help with exercise routines.
Valazco himself even admits the device “doesn’t look as good.” It does beg the question why even keep the tube-like design if you only want the cameras and facial recognition? Engadget reports the device is already a little smaller, so there seems to be some flexibility in how the device can be shaped- especially if it only uses a flat screen.
Keeping the device as-is, and using the likeness of celebrities (or even characters from western cartoons and video games) would seem to be a no-brainier. Actor Samuel L. Jackson has already lent his voice to Alexa– combining that with a stylized 3D model could be within reason.
Anime fans on Twitter have had scathing reactions to the news [1, 2]. Some are frustrated that the device is being “ruined” and sold to another audience, rather than becoming more available to them. Others are concerned that a company’s first thought when purchasing technology from another country, would be to remove anything from that culture.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!
Image: Engadget, Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (via PNG Guru)