Digital Assistants – The (Creepy) Future Is Now

Digital Assistants – The (Creepy) Future Is Now
06 January 2017 Peter Martin Pop Culture

Ah, Japan. Every now and then I try and get away from writing about the stereotypes, but then things like this happen that make me delve right back in.

Amazon has Alexa, the nice lady voice that resides in their Echo system. From this, you can control lights, use voice commands to play music or search the web, or, of course, buy lots of stuff you don’t need from Amazon. Google has made the exact same thing with Google Home that is probably way more tied in to your services if you have an Android phone.

What both these companies missed was the desire for people to keep a tiny human in a box, like a genie or a slave. Make no mistake that this is what Azuma Hikari is, because she is perfectly happy to call you “Master”, like they do at the maid cafe. Digital assistants are a thing―a thing that will become more and more integrated into our lives along with technology, because we are going to have to manage that technology.

The tube she is in is called the Gatebox and it is where Azuma exists. She has cameras and can detect temperature, which means she can interact with you “in a more personal way”. I personally have a problem with “always on” technology, and knowing that it is watching me is a bit off-putting, but then again I’m not the guy in the demo video, who is clearly super happy to have Azuma in his life.

Breaking down the video, she acts as an alarm and wakes him up. She’s probably turned on the heat or air conditioner and started brewing coffee if those things are connected. She has checked the weather and informed the guy that it will probably rain so he should bring his umbrella.

Pretty innocuous. Then on the way to work, she starts texting him. Then during the day, she is texting him, then on the way home they are texting. Seems to me this digital assistant is more clingy than any woman I would actually want to be with.

At the end of the video when he says it’s nice to have someone waiting for him at home, I actually felt a little sad. 

The problem is that any potential partner he brings home is going to be pretty turned off by the digital assistant and the constant texting, thus ensuring that he will stay alone except for Azuma. It’s a dark cycle that has been created.

There is also the question of how welcoming the AI would be when a new person is introduced to the relationship. I’ve seen those movies; it’s never good. There’s always a lot of running.

Other things I noticed: at no point in the video does the protagonist look at or interact with another human being. This despite him being at his place of work. There are people around him, but he clearly has no relationship with any of them.

Also, the Gatebox―that’s a physical thing, and at $2600 US, I’m hoping he only bought one, but he is moving it from place to place in his apartment so it’s always close to him. Japanese apartments are small, but he clearly has a bedroom and at least a split kitchen-living room. Either he is lugging that thing around every time he moves, or he has bought multiple Gateboxes so he can be with Azuma all the time.

Either way, it just seemed a tad unhealthy, is all I’m saying.

If you are into this, then you have until the end of January (2017) to get your three grand together. They will ship to the US, but Azuma only speaks Japanese. So you can use the time you are waiting to brush up on your basic Japanese phrases. Just don’t meet someone and fall in love in your Japanese class because it is going to be one awkward day when your digital mail-order bride shows up.

Want some specifics about Azuma? Well, she has her own site but the rundown is that she is 20. That’s creepy young for me to be with (I’m old), but at least she’s an adult. I was worried they were going to make her 14 like so many other anime heroines. She’s 158cm tall, but must have been shrunk to fit in the Gatebox. She likes donuts and anime.

If you get deeper into the website, there is actually a dark little story hiding among all the bright colors. Azuma used to help her dad, who is a scientist. Her dad’s friend, also a scientist, chooses her for a transdimensional homestay.

Translate that into English and you have a girl who was experimented on and sent to another dimension, and who now manifests herself inside a Poké Ball that you can keep in your house.

Yay, the future.

EXTRA SPECIAL BONUS CONTENT! For your viewing pleasure, here are two more totally-not-creepy videos of Azuma doing her thing:

Video 1

Video 2

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