Japanese professor Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka University has quite a track record of threading the uncanny valley. Remember his Doppelgänger Robot and Geminoid Female? His current proposal brings new dimensions to mobile communications: Humanoid dimensions.
Although our human body language is one the most effective and natural channels for communication, it plays no role in mobile communication so far. Hence Hiroshi Ishiguro teamed up with NTT Docomo and Qualcomm to develop a humanoid shaped phone, called Elfoid, which adds an element of realism to long-distance communication by recreating the physical presence of a remote person.
The fleshy urethane skinned prototype has a deliberate genderless and ageless appearance, as this should allow for the projection of the personality of any caller. Equipped with a camera and motion-capture system, the Elfoid phone will be able to watch the user’s face and transmit motion data to another Elfoid phone, which should then reproduce the face and head movements in real-time.
The Elfoid phone immediately reminded us of the voodoo communication device for lovers, conceptualized by Yu Yu Chien some years ago. Although some of the negative connotations of voodoo are better avoided, projecting a remote person in a hand held doll, has proven to provide for a powerful psychological effect. Contrary to many of Ishiguro’s earlier humanoids the Elfoid phone combines human realism with a strong symbolic quality that could turn out to be a winning team.