Gatebox is the next level in IoT, personal assistant, and loneliness

The Internet of Things (IoT) is something we keep hearing about. So naturally, you'll get companies with all sorts of ideas that are completely bonkers for its implementation on a consumer level. And doing it in a way only a Japanese company can is Gatebox, and its idea of a personal assistant. Or as its creators call it, the Virtual Companion.

Essentially, what you have is a device that looks like a coffee machine that takes up as much horizontal space as a piece of A4 paper. It holds the hologram projection that is your personal assistant, and comes with an array of sensors that allow it to do things like talk to you, like any personal assistant. But more than the likes of Siri or Cortana, a Gatebox personal assistant is made to simulate a life of its own. Depending on the time of day, it may be shown to be sweeping the floor or cooking, though don't expect any of that to actually happen in reality.

Photo: Gatebox website

It does a variety of other things as well, like wake you up based on the time you usually do, and await your return at the end of the day, turning on all the lights and the air conditioning in anticipation - provided you have them connected in a smart home network. As with most personal assistants, you can try conversing with it, but don't expect deep conversation about the meaning of life. There's also an app in development that will allow you to converse with it as if it was an actual human being.

For now, Gatebox only comes with one character, called Azuma Hikari. But considering it once did a technical demo featuring Vocaloid poster girl Hatsune Miku and the image on its own site, it's very likely that there will be more added, each with its own unique personality, behaviour and all that.

Photo: Gatebox website

As a concept, it looks brilliant. In fact, it's seemingly so sophisticated, you wonder if you really need that advance a personal assistant that, at the same time, seems to behave in a way that suggests that it's more than just a personal assistant. The promotional video even actively shows it as being a provider of personal connection. It paints a sad picture, and is especially so considering its country of origin. But maybe that's where the Virtual Companion bit comes in.

At any rate, it's now available for pre-order for 298,000 yen (S$3,673), but it ships only to Japan (obviously) and the US Considering its price, it's unlikely to come over to our shores either.

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