Merchant Innovation

The Newest Smartphone? A Dancing, Tuxedo-Wearing Robot

First, there were flip phones and Nokia-like bricks. Then, there were sleek smartphones and oversized phablets. Where might smartphone design go next?

According to electronics manufacturer Sharp, the future of phones is in robots.

Robots that sing, dance and wear tuxedos.

During a presentation at the 2015 CEATEC consumer electronics show in Tokyo, Sharp unveiled the design of its newest smartphone, the RoBoHoN, Bloomberg Business reported. Eschewing normal smartphone designs with large, flat screens and vibrant displays, Sharp took the RoBoHoN in a different direction, producing what looks like a small children’s robot toy but packs a host of features, like voice recognition, a built-in projector and a digital assistant.

Yoshisuke Hasegawa, senior director of electronics at Sharp, told Bloomberg that though RoBoHoN’s design might be unexpected, Sharp needs to take some chances to increase its reputation with consumers who have flocked to Apple, Samsung and Sony devices in recent years.

"Sharp had forgotten about being sharp and acute in its business ideas and consumer demand,” Hasegawa said. “We are reviewing how we do consumer electronics and see RoBoHoN as the first product with impact."

Engadget reported that RoBoHoN is currently scheduled for a Japan-only launch sometime in early 2016. The unique device’s launch should test consumers’ assumptions about how to use a smartphone, as RoBoHoN’s stripped-down touchscreen offers only two inches of real estate. That’s because speech is intended as the primary mode of user interaction, but it’s as yet unclear if consumers will go for a device that bucks so many trends they’re used to.

Tomotaka Takahashi, RoBoHoN’s designer, told Bloomberg that he understands the risks that come with releasing such a product.

“For good or bad, innovation comes with some surprise,” Takahashi said.

And sometimes it comes with singing robots. Robots who appear to be the life of the party (see video below).

Come the new year, Sharp will find out whether RoBoHoN is the start of something new or a quirky take on established smartphone design.

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