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Sharp's RoBoHoN may be the Android-powered automaton of your digital dreams

Sharp is planning to release a pricey pint-sized product that's both charming and somewhat superfluous at the same time. Is this the future of smartphones?

Published onApril 14, 2016

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Earlier today here in Japan, Sharp Corp. announced the official details about its new RoBoHoN smart robot. The 8-inch automaton, which will retail for 198,000 Yen ($1810) is a “limited” edition kind of thing, as only 5,000 units are being produced each month. It will go on sale on May 26th at select retailers and online via Sharp’s own website.

The ‘bot runs Android, and can thus make telephone calls, send e-mails, photos and videos. It also responds to basic voice commands, and can – of course – dance. It even includes a built-in projector which Sharp and Microvision Inc. partnered up to produce.

In terms of specs, the cute little product packs a 2-inch LCD display, a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC, has 2GB of RAM, 16GB of on-board storage, an 8-megapixel camera, a standard HD projector, a 1700mAh  battery, and supports LTE and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop.

Words of wisdom

In considering the potential success of this product, Ace Research Instutite analyst, Hideki Yasuda, said that “I don’t think this will be a major hit item…It is too big to carry around as a smartphone. Some hard-core robot fans would buy this at the launch, but that would be it.”One of the creators of the robot, Tomotaka Takahashi, said “I can’t think of any other consumer products that are as challenging as this, at least in the recent years.” One might ask if he is aware of Softbank’s Pepper, another expensive robot.

Still, others are seemingly more optimistic, for example Waseda Business School professor, Atsushi Osanai, who offered his insight: “In order to make one successful product, you would need nine failed products first…The failure is a source of innovation that Sharp needs to retain no matter who would be managing the company.”

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Osanai’s comments speak of the recent news that China’s Hon Hai Technology Group (Foxconn) agreed to a $3.5 billion takeover of the ailing Japanese manufacturer. Yet as The Wall Street Journal points, out this is the exact kind of product that Terry Gou – owner of Hon Hai Technology Group (Foxconn) – may have seen as a gold lining in the transaction.

It’s worth pointing out that RoBoHoN requires a special cloud-based connection to activate, and therefore will only work in Japan. In addition, to purchase the robot, consumers must also sign up for a SIM-card based data plan and other commitments.

What’s your take on this product? Does it have potential? Leave your comments below!

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