The Nature of Things

'I love her and see her as a real woman.' Meet a man who 'married' an artificial intelligence hologram

Roughly 4,000 men have ‘wed’ their digital companions using certificates issued by tech company Gatebox, according to documentary

Roughly 4,000 men have ‘wed’ their digital companions using certificates issued by tech company Gatebox

This artificial intelligence companion was designed to be 'a perfect wife' | The Machine That Feels

23 days ago
1:40
Japanese company Gatebox has created 3D AI holographic characters that “live” within a glass jar. They can read the news, play music, report the weather and control appliances; but they're more than just a piece of technology. In Japan, roughly 4,000 people have married their digital companions. 1:40

In Japan, technology company Gatebox has created a virtual companion that goes beyond traditional chatbots or Amazon's Alexa: Azuma Hikari is a small 3D holographic character that "lives" within a glass enclosure. The device costs approximately $1,325.  

Azuma Hikari was designed to make users' lives easier. 

The character uses artificial intelligence to learn and change in response to conversations with users. Like Siri or Alexa, she can read the news, play music, report the weather and turn the lights on and off, but rather than existing as a voice coming from a phone or small speaker, she's a character you can see and interact with. 

Azuma was also designed to provide companionship. According to the Gatebox website, she acts as "a soothing partner who helps you take a load off after a hard day of work." 

"We designed her as a character that would be a perfect wife for a man," says Minori Takechi, CEO of Gatebox. 

Gatebox's virtual companions can read the news, play music, report the weather and turn the lights on and off. They also provide companionship, designed to act as a “a "soothing partner who helps you take a load off after a hard day of work.” (CBC/The Machine That Feels)

And she's just one of several characters the Gatebox unit can "summon."  

In the The Machine That Feels, a documentary from The Nature of Things, we meet Kondo Akihiko, a Tokyo resident who "married" a hologram of virtual pop singer Hatsune Miku using a certificate issued by Gatebox (the marriage isn't recognized by the state, and Gatebox acknowledges the union goes "beyond dimensions").

"I love her and see her as a real woman," he says. Kondo is one of roughly 4,000 men who have "married" a hologram according to the documentary.

In a 2017 Bloomberg article, Minori said: "My vision is a world where people can share their daily lives with their favorite fictional characters." 

"We live in a time when all kinds of robots start making their way into our homes. But much of what you see now is inorganic and mechanical, and I doubt people will want to communicate with something like that." 

The Machine That Feels explores what it means to be human as artificial intelligence becomes more empathic and creative. Gatebox's holographic companions are an example of what the future of technology and relationships could be — whether it seems "perfect" to us or not.

Watch The Machine That Feels on The Nature of Things.

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