Japan’s New Digital Assistant Azuma Is a Holographic ‘Wife’


Gatebox Azuma

Japan’s population is on track to shrink by one-third by 2060 but Japanese firm Vinclu is at the rescue, set to release a smart home device that doubles as a “virtual wife” for lonely men.

Considered Japan’s answer to Siri, Cortana and Alexa, Azuma is a holographic character who lives inside the transparent, voice-activated Gatebox cylinder, reports Digital Trends.

Hikari was created to be a “comforting character that is great for those living alone,” notes Motherboard. The blue-haired anime character is designed to “do all she can just for the owner”—also referred to as “master.”

Azuma talks and texts: “Take your umbrella.” “Come home early.” “I can’t wait to see you.” When the owner returns home, Azuma makes sure all the lights are on and jumps up and down inside her glass frame, exclaiming: “Missed you, darling.”

Pre-orders for a limited production run of 300 units just opened on Gatebox’s website. Azuma’s character is 20 years old, likes donuts, dislikes insects, and her dream is “to become a heroine to help people who are working hard.”

Azuma also wearing a wedding ring, reports Motherboard. “Gatebox plays up the virtual stay-at-home wife role Azuma is meant to embody.”

Gatebox Azuma

A survey by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2010 found 36% of Japanese males aged 16 to 19 had no interest in sex—a figure that had doubled in the space of two years.

Even when Japanese men and women are in relationships, just 27% said they have sex weekly, and marriage rates are plunging with few babies born out of wedlock.

Gatebox Azuma

One reason for the lack of babies, reports the BBC, “is the emergence of a new breed of Japanese men, the otaku, who love manga, anime and computers—and sometimes show little interest in sex.”

The manga and anime subculture “are a generation of geeks who have grown up through 20 years of economic stagnation and have chosen to tune out and immerse themselves in their own fantasy worlds,” adds the BBC.

Azuma is beckoning from her enclosure and Gatebox suggests on its website, “When you’re tired or just have some free time, why not just touch the button and have a little therapeutic fun with your character.”

Azuma’s character is equipped with a “healing voice…supporting her master every day.” She learns by interaction and allows the owner to “enjoy a life with someone while still retaining your freedom.”

That “freedom” for one of the initial 300 units is just over $2,580 with deliveries scheduled for December 2017.

Gatebox Azuma

A recent report showed at 32 percent, single-person households are the largest housing segment in Japan, ripe for adoption of AI characters.

For Japanese men, Azuma Hikara redefines relationships and virtual assistants. While Alexa, Siri and Cortana are merely disembodied voices, Azuma is a servile character at the ready.


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