Why Not?

I know people are mocking this, but my opinion is “who am I to judge?” If anything, I’m surprised it has taken so long.

The idea of virtual or holographic companions has been the stuff of science fiction for some time now. Cortana from Halo is one of the most well known, and now one of the most well-realized in her (its?) implementations within the Windows ecosystem, and the movie Her expanded on this very idea in a very moving and relatable way, presenting it as an evolution of society and technology that are merging closer and closer together. Of course, we can’t forget about Siri who, in fairness, was doing it to us first. And they’re hardly the only ones.

So now, a company called Gatebox has developed a sort-of holographic companion (it uses rear projection, a common technique for pseudo-holograms) that can act as a regular virtual assistant, however this one can be more…personal and adds a visual component that we haven’t seen before. It sounds unnerving at first. Taking on the appearance of an anime-inspired girl named Azuma Hikari, and living in a tank on your desk, she can provide not just assistantship, but companionship as well.

That’s right, for around $2,700 she will remind you of important events and dates and appointments, but she has been imbued with her own dreams and desires, hopes and wishes, just like a person. She’ll send you text messages, ask how your day was, tell you about herself and her thoughts. She can turn on lights and appliances, and connect to the Internet and talk about the weather or events or sports, or whatever else you’d like.

Most, but not all, articles talking about it have mocked it and its development, but I just can’t criticize it. it’s for release in Japan with no North American or European release in sight, and in my opinion that speaks to the Japanese culture, one of which I am very fond, but they dedicate themselves so much to work and school that there is little time for investment into personal relationships. This was designed and developed in part as a response to that, to give (generally) men who would otherwise be wanting for companionship a way to have someone with whom they can interact. People have pets for that very reason, so if someone doesn’t mind a holographic anime girl, then why not?

Perhaps there will even be additional characters. Maybe a snarky robot, or imp, or angry Australian guy, or a long-haired heavy-metal fan who converses in the same vernacular as I, or a sentient toaster; the possibilities are endless. For many of us, something like this would be a pure novelty, but if someone is genuinely lonely, or perhaps has an aversion to crowds or social spaces, or simply doesn’t have the time currently to invest in relationships, then I can’t find fault. If there is a demand for this type of technology, then as I said before, why not? Who am I to judge?

I genuinely encourage you to visit their website, it’s actually well-designed and gives you an almost first-person view of the device. I’m strangely interested in where this technology goes, and what its development says about us as people and a society.

Here’s the promo video. Make your own judgement.