“You know, while I was on my way home, I thought—it feels great that someone’s waiting for me.” It would be easy to laugh at the limited-release Gatebox as an overpriced (,500! But in Japan, the alienation that would make a lonely, overworked young man reach out to a robot for companionship is endemic.
So, while American companies are turning out home assistants focused on entertainment and efficiency, a holographic wife may be a needed balm for Japan’s troubled socio-economic landscape.
Things get really depressing, though, as the Gatebox/Hikari texts the young man throughout the day (it includes a chatbot), even encouraging him longingly to “Come home early.” When he finally calls it a day, he’s sure to let “her” know, and she replies with an excited “Yay!
” Finally, as he lies down to sleep, the young man shares his true feelings with the appliance.
Rural economies in particular have cratered as young people cluster in big cities.
Japan watchers have made a perennial sport out of opining on the causes of Japan’s low marriage and birth rates, even though they’re common to most advanced economies.