Sharp's RoBoHon a flop

Updated : 23.09.2016 / Category Capsule

A robot-shaped smartphone Sharp Corp. launched with great fanfare this year as a symbol of the electronics giant's recovery has been a flop.

Although Sharp has the capacity to produce about 5,000 RoBoHoN units per month, only "about 1,000" sold over two months from the end of May, according to a source inside the company.

Billed as a "humanoid robot that can walk on two legs and be operated by voice commands," RoBoHon is essentially a robot-shaped smartphone with functions that barely differ from older phone models. Even so, it was priced at ¥198,000.

According to a think-tank researcher well-informed about robotics, RoBoHon was more about style than substance.

"Robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi, who was involved in developing the phone, is more of an artist than an engineer," said the researcher. "Compared with the Pepper humanoid robot developed by SoftBank, this falls under the toy category."

Nevertheless, Sharp had aggressively pushed RoBoHon as part of its "Cocoro Project" that links the robot with home appliances equipped with artificial intelligence features.

Even after Sharp came under the umbrella of Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., RoBoHon remained a priority. "We won't lose what makes Sharp special," a Sharp executive said.

But according to a securities analyst, the robot smartphone is certain to face the chop from Tai Jeng Wu, a Hon Hai corporate executive vice president who became Sharp president in August. "There's no doubt he'll quickly cut the Cocoro Project, which is an unknown quantity," the analyst said.

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This is a translation of an article from the September 2016 issue of Sentaku.