There is no shortage of consumer-oriented robots these days, whether for entertainment, security, or even health. They come in all shapes and sizes, including some cute, dancing ones. Curiously, there very few of them seem to take advantage of the fact that science fiction and pop culture already has tons of such kinds of intelligent automatons to use as inspiration. Filling up that gap, Bandai Namco has teamed up with IBM and VAIO to bring one such robot, Gundam’s Haro, to life, as well as to the market next year.
Although not as popular as, say, R2-D2 or, more recently, BB-8, Haro has captured the imaginations and hearts of Gundam fans, both in Japan and elsewhere, long ago. Really, it was only a matter of time before someone made a near perfect replica of the green sphere. That someone just happened to be Bandai Namco, whose parent company owns a license to the Gundam fanchise, and that time is CEATEC 2017.
The annual tech exhibit was unsurprisingly filled with robots of all sorts, but one (actually two) that captured much attention, owing to its roots in the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise, was “Gunsheruju” Haro, a portmanteau of “Gundam” and “Concierge”. The green robotic sphere, 19 cm in diameter, is an exact replica of the animated show’s robot of the same name. It can shake and tilt from side to side, and its “ears” open up to flap up and down. Bandai Namco even got the original seiyuu (voice actress) Satomi Arai to provide an added dash of authenticity.
But concierge robot Haro is not. Its primary purpose is to educate you about the facts of the Gundam series. What AI it has inside is used to recognize the speaker’s questions regarding Gundam characters, items, or even famous lines. Haro can also grill you to test your Gundam-worthiness. It can function as an external speaker or an alarm, if you connect your phone to it via Bluetooth.
At CEATEC 2017, there were actually two Haro’s on display. One could move but had no speech recognition and voice while the other could hold a Gundam conversation was frozen in place. The final product, which is slated to launch in Japan next year for a still unknown price, will be able to do both.