Sharp to unleash walking, talking robot-smartphone

Sharp will sell a miniature robot that doubles as a smartphone starting May 26 in Japan, the electronics maker said.

The new product, named RoBoHoN, taps artificial intelligence and Internet of Things technology to memorize information and learn from conversations with its owner. RoBoHoN also recognizes faces, allowing it to take a photo of a family member by calling out the person’s name to get the attention of the intended photo subject. It also responds to voice commands.

The robot-smartphone is 19.5cm tall, but weighs just around 390 grams. It can stand up, walk on its two legs and dance. In addition to the phone and camera functions, RoBoHoN will come equipped with a projector for showing still images and videos on the wall by emitting light through its eyes.

Sharp began taking preorders at the official RoBoHoN website Thursday, but the product also will be sold through consumer electronics retailers. The company plans to manufacture 5,000 RoBoHoNs a month and turn a profit in six months.

The price will be 213,840 yen ($1,957), including the consumption tax. RoBoHoN owners will need to pay a monthly charge of 980 yen, excluding taxes, to make full use of the product’s functions and download additional applications as they become available. They also have to pay phone charges separately to use the smartphone function.

Sharp recently signed a rescue deal with Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, or Foxconn. The struggling Japanese company hopes the RoBoHoN marks the beginning of a journey to restore its business strength. In its heyday, Sharp produced a string of highly successful novel products.

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