Sony banking on Hello! bot to be the next big thing for the home

Whilst other may be prioritising developing their voice-controlled offerings, Sony are exploring a different avenue (in addition to its Google Home-powered Sony’s LF-S50G speaker). Say hello to ‘Hello!’

It’s long been predicted that bots will find their way into our homes in the near future, and Sony wants to get a head start on the market with the introduction of its Hello! “communication robot.”

The Xperia Hello! is the commercial realisation of Sony’s Agent concept introduced early last year. Coming in at 216mm (4.3 x 8.5 in) tall, it features a swivelling head incorporating a 13.2 MP camera and a body with a 4.6-in 720p touchscreen display capable of showing messages, weather, time and video feeds.

Connectivity options include WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2, as well as tap-to-connect NFC technology. Sony is giving much away audio-wise, and has just confirmed that Hello! has a single built-in speaker.

Weighing in at 1.085 kg (38 oz), the bot runs Android 7.1 with a 1.8 GHz dual core and 1.4 GHz quad core brain providing processing power, supported by 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage.

Sony says not only can the pint-sized bot respond to voice commands, it also is programmed with the ability to recognise different family members and adapt its communication accordingly (working from a family member database). In total Hello! packs in seven microphones and five sensors, including a Exmor RS CMO sensor which can detect individuals within a 3-metre (10 ft) radius and swivel up to 340 degrees to face them.

In addition to answering questions, the Xperia bot also supports two-way comms via Skype and LINE (a popular Japanese chat platform) and allows family members to make and be reminded of calendar events. Photos (including panorama shots) can also be sent from the device to a user’s smartphone.

Sony also says the robot can do a little “dance” moves, if that’s what you’re after when looking for in your next technology purchase.

For now Sony is just testing the waters with Hello! and its limited to a release in Japan on 18 November, 2017. Priced at 150,000 yen (that’s around £1,000 in the UK/$1,300 in the US), Sony admits itself it doesn’t expect to shift a “significant volume” of the bots as it will likely be a while before we make the transition to saying ‘hello’ to a smart speaker to a physical assistant in the home – however much they may be able to swivel.

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