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There’s something a bit off-putting about virtual assistants like Siri and Cortana. Talking into a lifeless smartphone seems to be a step backwards for humanizing interaction between man and machine. Bridging this gap is Sharp, the Japanese electronics brand.

The company is usually known for its straightforward, sometimes dull (albeit useful) approach to printers, televisions and solar equipment. It has even openly admitted to these accusations: “Sharp had forgotten about being sharp and acute in its business ideas and consumer demand,” said Yoshisuke Hasegawa, senior director in charge of Sharp’s electronics business. In attempts to reverse their image and reach consumers in a way no electronics company has ever done before is RoBoHoN, a delightful, pocket-sized assistant.

Meet RoBoHoN

RoBoHoN is a charismatic robot that doubles as a loyal assistant. Based on photos alone, the machine appears to be shrouded with a strong sense of apprehension and weirdness, but seeing it in action will change that feeling instantly:

The clip shows a handful of new ways you can interact with a handheld robot – ways that other tech manufacturers can only dream of facilitating. Sharp may have solved the problem with today’s online assistants just by changing the case of the device from a metallic or hard plastic rectangular frame to a whimsical robot.

Probably Better Than Your Smartphone

The tech specs have not been released for the unit, so we don’t know how powerful the smartphone hybrid is yet. However, the preview video does reveal features that you won’t find in today’s smartphones. Turning the robot around, you’ll find the touchscreen panel. From there you can access personal settings, send messages manually and scan through notifications.

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A built-in projector located at the head of the bot gives it the ability to display colorful slideshows, videos and photos on a clear surface. Yes, that’s old technology, but how they use it in the clip is fairly new. You could project a detailed map on a piece of paper to get a better view of hidden routes and layouts. Furthermore, an aspiring cook was seen plating a meal based on an image that was displayed by the reliable assistant.

RoBoHoN knows how to party too; it can bust a move and be programmed to say things like, “I’m having so much fun!” or “I’m better than an iPhone!” Using facial recognition, the droid takes photos and can detect when you’re smiling at something. The device moves naturally, depending on what you’re doing. When a call comes in, the arms and legs freeze up like it’s about to fly in the air. This allows you to place your ear directly on the speaker. On standby mode, it sits patiently with a grin until you reach for the unit.

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Release Date

Sharp plans to release the RoBoHoN to consumers in 2016. For now, pricing information is unavailable. The company mentioned it will follow up through the press when it enters the final stages of production. “For good or bad, innovation comes with some surprise,” said Tomotaka Takahashi, designer of the device. A little robo friend seems like nothing but good to us, though.

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