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Robot minions will replace our smartphones in ten years

According to a Japanese robotics expert, the humble smartphone will be deader than a dozen dodos in a decade’s time, and we’ll all be carrying robotic sidekicks in our pocket instead.

If you’ve ever at some point in your life been a kid, particularly one of the male persuasion, then chances are you’ve dreamt of having your own robot buddy. A smart, friendly cyborg that could do all your homework, beat those really tricky videogame levels, and smack ten shades out of that fugly bully at school. Well, good news, because Japanese robo-maestro Tomotaka Takahashi reckons we’re just ten years away from owning our very own helpful pocket-sized robo-friends.

How smartphones will be replaced by robot minions in just ten years

Tomotaka Takahashi is the founder of Kyoto University’s Robo Garage, which specialises in robot design and creation. These guys know their stuff: they’ve built robots that can scale the Grand Canyon or take on Le Mans, and their creations have even won the RoboCup football tournament and been the stars of Asian music videos. And Takahashi reckons that Robo Garage can go one step further, by putting a robot in everyone’s pants.

This Friday at the Hyper Japan event in London, Takahashi spoke about how smartphones are essentially miniature robots that we depend on to perform a huge range of functions, and keep us updated with what’s happening in the world. But they aren’t quite perfect. After all, despite most of them packing some kind of voice recognition, how often do you see anyone talking to their phones? It feels unnatural to chat to a slab of rectangular plastic, even though we’d happily have a conversation with our pets.

But if our smartphones looked a little more human, and came packing their own perrsonaities, interacting with them could be a lot more fun and issuing commands using voice and gestures will seem more natural. And by absorbing our dialogue and listening to our teary, drunken rants about how we’ve ****ed up our lives, our sidekicks can learn everything there is to know about us, and help guide us through existence appropriately.

How smartphones will be replaced by robot minions in just ten years

Takahashi and his Robi creation, which has sold big in Asia

So, our robot sidekicks will likely take a humanoid form, similar to the infamous Robi in the above photo, but of course their size will need to be scaled down so they can slip inside our pockets and handbags. And at 1kg, Robi isn’t exactly lightweight.

Our robo-mates will also need to be a bit more feature-packed, although Robi already has plenty of smartphone-style functions and can understand just over 200 commands. He has a timer mode, an IR sensor for interacting with your telly, and can even do some stuff that’s sadly beyond our Sony Xperias and Apple iPhones, such as scrubbing the floor.

How smartphones will be replaced by robot minions in just ten years

It’s certainly feasible that a compact Robi could do everything we expect of a smartphone, and with built-in cameras it could even perform facial recognition, for security and supporting multiple users. Of course, you’d still need a screen for browsing the web, playing apps and watching video. And taking calls without a headset could be a little awkward, as you press your robot friend against your face and speak into its…well, whatever.

Will we actually all be carrying around mini mechanoids in 2024? Well, it can’t look any more ridiculous than Google Glass, and you have to admit, Takahashi’s creations are pretty damn cute. Portable tech is evolving incredibly fast, so anyone’s guess could turn out to be the next big reality. While we’re waiting for the next decade to pass, here’s a video of Mobi in action. D’awwwwwwww!

What do you reckon phones will evolve into within the next decade? Let us know in the comments below.

Read next: Why the iPhone will be dead by 2018.


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