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Innovation Lab: Robot Smartphones, Disney Bionics and Textable Smells

Tim Maytom

At Mobile Marketing we're proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions, whether it's on our website, in our magazine or at our Mobile Marketing Summits. Giving a platform to companies that are breaking new ground in their market brings audiences one step closer to the ideas and developments that will shape tomorrow.


In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world's innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.

Sharp's RoboHon is Half Phone, Half Robot


Perhaps taking the phrase 'Android smartphone' a little too literally, Sharp has unveiled a new creation at the Ceatec show in Japan called RoboHon, a 19.5cm robot that can take calls, respond to a user's voice and even project videos.

RoboHon is a fully functioning smartphone, with a touchscreen embedded in its back that can run apps and the ability to make calls, send texts and all the other normal features you'd associate with a mobile.

However, it can also walk around, get into conversations with users, dance to music and crouch down to project videos out of its face onto flat surfaces. While users can pick it up and hold it  in a similar manner to a normal phone, its default mode will have it answer calls in speakerphone mode, and move as if you were talking directly to it.

The device will go on sale in Japan next year, with more details to be revealed closer to the time. There's no word yet on whether it will see a release internationally, or indeed if enough people want to walk around with a tiny robot in their jacket pocket to justify a wider release, but it will certainly stand out from the legions of other smartphones.

open bionics disneyDisney Unveils Cartoon-themed Prosthetics for Kids
While many manufacturers of prosthetic limbs have been making leaps and bounds in developing realistic artificial limbs that are almost indistinguishable from real ones, UK manufacturer Open Bionics has opted to go in the opposite direction with colourful creations aimed at children branded after popular movie characters.

The limbs are part of the company's work as part of the Disney Accelerator program, which provides funding and resources to technology innovators. They were unveiled at the annual Demo Day, when the startups who have been working with Disney show off their results to executives, along with investors, industry leaders and fellow entrepreneurs.

The prosthetics were created using low-cost, 3D printing techniques that aim to keep the devices accessible to everyone who needs them, and are inspired by characters such as Marvel's Iron Man, Disney's Frozen and Star Wars' Luke Skywalker.

As part of the program, Disney donated the licenses for the franchises, all of which it owns, to the company royalty-free, and Open Bionics is hoping that the exciting designs help children get excited about their prosthetics.

Drew Barrymore VR headerInStyle Provides VR Tour at Drew Barrymore Photoshoot
Jaunt VR has teamed up with InStyle magazine to provide a unique behind-the-scenes glimpse into on of its photoshoots, making use of virtual reality to provide readers with a 360-degree tour of a photo studio as Drew Barrymore prepared to be snapped for the November issue's cover.

The experience was created with a 360-degree stereoscopic camera along with 3D sound-field microphones, and readers can access the film using Jaunt's app and a Google Cardboard viewer. InStyle has even created limited-edition branded viewers which are available for free to readers, to ensure as many people as possible access the VR experience.

"Virtual reality is enabling a new age of exploration," said Jens Christensen, co-founder and CEO of Jaunt. "For the first time, anyone in the world can travel to New York City in an instant, stand on the set of a celebrity photo shoot and glimpse the magic behind the scenes. InStyle Virtual is a perfect example of brands, creatives and technologists coming together to engage audiences in entirely new ways."

Pair of Robots Invent Language in Real Time


Some of the smartest minds in AI are working on language problems, teaching virtual assistants like Siri and Cortana to understand human languages in their natural form and respond appropriately. However, some researchers are suggesting that it's more important to give AI the tools to develop its own language.

That's exactly what Dr. Luc Steels is working on at the VUB Artificial Intelligence Lab in Brussels. The robots being developed there show a remarkable level of self-consciousness, able to develop knowledge of their own bodies by watching themselves in the mirror and, perhaps more impressively, work together to develop a language.

"They are starting from absolute zero: no prior words, no prior concepts, and then they co-evolve a shared lexicon" said Dr Steels in an interview with The Daily Dot. "Each time the experiment restarts, another language will come out."

osnap combooCase Lets You Send Smells on the Go
Sight and sound are pretty well covered by digital technology, and with haptic feedback and 3D printed food, touch and taste are catching up. That just leaves smells to be digitised, but thankfully one company has already started work on that very problem.

Vapor Communications has already developed the oPhone, an IoT device which works in conjunction with the accompanying oNotes app to create up to 300,000 different scents which can be triggered remotely, and now the firm is working on a smaller version that will function as a phone case, and work while users are out and about.

"With oCase we are bringing scent delivery precisely to the nose, in the way that headsets bring sound precisely to the ears," said David Edwards, co-found of Vapor Communications. "This will be critical to the emergence of scent messaging, the experience of oBooks, and finally the relevance of olfactory communication to human health."