Gatebox is taking orders for its latest virtual home robot

David Murphy

LINE subsidiary Gatebox has started talking orders for the latest model of Gatebox, the world's first ‘virtual home robot’ that allows owners to live together and interact with a virtual character.

The Gatebox uses projection and sensing technologies to create the interactive virtual character. The GTBX-1, a limited-run model of only 300 units went on sale in 2016 and sold out in one month, despite costing approximately JPY300,000 ($2,670/£2,033). When an additional run of 39 units went on sale in 2017, the company received 1,000 orders.

Since then, many people have asked for another run of the innovative device, so Gatebox has responded with this new, mass-production model, the GTBX-100, which boasts a host of design refinements over the limited-run model and improvements to the realism of the character and her ability to communicate conversationally.

The new Gatebox unit has been completely redesigned at the hardware level, removing excess elements and refining the body so now it is about the size of a sheet of A4 paper. Two microphones are embedded in the top of the Gatebox unit, allowing owners to talk to the character from further away. Furthermore, thanks to the camera and motion detector, the unit can register faces and movement, allowing the character to engage in active communication with users, such as smiling when she sees the user's face or greeting them when they come home.

Gatebox is also equipped with wireless LAN, Bluetooth, and infrared sensors, so the unit can notify owners of the weather, news, and other information from the internet, or act as a remote control for other electronic devices in the room.

When the GTBX-100 model is initially shipped, it will feature a pre-trial version of the original character, Hikari Azuma. An upgraded, full version of Hikari Aizuma is due to be released in December 2018, with updated features designed to make her feel even more like she is a part of an owner's life, such as by celebrating anniversaries or sharing a toast.

The Gatebox is available from the company’s website for JPY150,000, plus a monthly subscription fee of JPY1,500, which will be waived until 31 March, 2019.