Virtual assistants nowadays are more than just the voices coming out of your devices. Japanese company Vinclu has just unveiled its Gatebox virtual assistant, which features a holographic anime character that can provide companionship to lonely individuals.

First introduced as a concept "communication robot" in January, the new holographic virtual assistant goes by the name Azuma Hikari and is given the appearance of a female anime character. The new system is said to compete with Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant that powers up the Echo smart speaker.

Gatebox AI Features

The new Gatebox virtual assistant also comes in a cylindrical box, but in contrast to Alexa, it's also projected in hologram form, allowing users to visually communicate with it. Although Azuma Hikari remains "trapped" in a jar, the companionship it offers made it suitable for lonely individuals. The system is designed to respond instinctively to voice commands with added features that allow users to communicate with the virtual assistant through messaging.

The Gatebox AI comes with a chatbot system that enables users to talk to Azuma Hikari even when at work. With the messaging bot, anyone can instruct the assistant to perform home-based cloud duties such as setting the lighting, music, and other enabled devices remotely. Plus, individuals longing for companionship can reach out the virtual assistant using the chatbot if they simply need someone to talk to.

Some of the Gatebox AI features make it very similar to Amazon's Alexa, which can also be controlled using the companion app and also responds to voice commands via Amazon Echo. The main difference between Azuma Hikari and Alexa is the holographic visual representation of the former.

Introducing Azuma Hikari

Azuma Hikari's physical features are patterned after popular Japanese anime characters. The Gatebox AI is rendered with blue hair and wearing alluring outfits, and compared to Alexa's robotic voice, Azuma Hikari comes with a more friendly, "ultimate healing voice." The virtual assistant is projected like a CGI character inside its home box and is designed to make its users feel as if they are living with someone in their homes.

Gatebox has released a trailer showcasing the use of its new hologram virtual assistant. The company says Azuma Hikari will be able to recognize the users' sleeping pattern and hobbies, and even alert them on sudden weather changes voluntarily without being asked.

The only downside is that the user needs to press the mic in order to talk to the Gatebox AI, unlike in the Amazon Echo.

Experts warn that virtual assistants - like all other innovative technologies - may have a loophole when it comes to security, so users should still be cautious when using one of these.

Reports say there is a limited number of Gearboxes available for preorder in 2017. The hologram virtual assistant costs about $2,500.

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