This Pocket-Sized Robot Is Your Next Smartphone (and Best Friend)

Yes, it's a phone that's also a tiny personal robo-buddy.

Emiko Jozuka

Emiko Jozuka

Robohon prepares to snap a photo from a camera in its head. Image: Screenshot from Sharp's concept video

Forget the new iPhone, what you need is a mobile device in the shape of a pocket-sized robot.

That's according to Japanese electronics company Sharp Corporation, which has teamed up with Japanese roboticist Tomotaka Takahashi to launch "Robohon"—a dinky, literally android-styled smartphone—in 2016.

In a concept video released by Sharp on Tuesday, the 19.5 cm tallRobohon is promoted as a miniature arm-waving, dancing, natural-speech-equipped robot with all the benefits of a smartphone. It can send messages, read emails, connect to the internet, take photographs, display maps and images from its projector head, and converse with its owner via facial and voice recognition software.

But the designers want it to be more than just your pocket-sized secretary; they really want it to be your friend, with the tagline "a phone that moves the heart." That's probably why they teamed up with Takahashi, who specifically designed space robot Kirobo in 2013 to keep lonesome Japanese astronauts company.

In the concept video, several scenes show Robohon surpassing its functions as a tool. It's shown comforting a woman pining after an ex-boyfriend, boogying with its human pals at a party, and gazing on a sunset with its human companion.

Over the past few months, emotional humanoid robots have made headlines world over, and are being increasingly put forward by developers as man's new best friend. First there was Casper-the-friendly-ghost-lookalike Pepper; then came the one-eyed Jibo.

Though the exact release dates for Robohon aren't set yet, could this android smartphone be a forerunner of friendly mobile phones to come? Or could Robohon end up facing a similar fate to robot dog Aibo, who was loved for a while but then put down by Sony in 2006?

Cool Japan is a column about the quirky and serious happenings in the Japanese scientific, technological and cultural realms. It covers the unknown, the mainstream, and the otherwise interesting developments in Japan.