If you're in the market for a smart speaker, there are lots and lots of decent choices, including the Echo from Amazon, Google's Home and Apple's HomePod, and the Sonos One. But if you want a little more from your voice-activated living room pal, and your bank account is pretty healthy, there are devices that go that extra mile – like the Keecker home entertainment robot. Now Sony Mobile has announced a Japan-only launch for its family entertainment and comms hub, the Xperia Hello! communications robot.

The Hello! is the commercial realization of the Agent concept seen early last year, and is pitched at being much more than mere a smart speaker – Sony wants users to think of it as a member of the family. As well as voice activation, recognition and control, Hello! features four sensors in the lower part of its body to detect the approach of users from up to 3 meters (10 ft) away, and a 13.2 MP camera with an Exmor RS CMOS sensor to the top checks the face against a registered family member database.

There are seven microphones around the battery-operated bot, enabling it to recognize the direction of a voice command and turn by up to 340 degrees to face the user. Its LED "eyes" match spoken responses with expressions, and it has motorized body, head and neck parts, with Sony making much of its little "dance" moves.

It can store unique family member profiles, and offer different interactions for different users, answer questions by searching online and cater for two-way comms via Skype and LINE (a popular Japanese chat platform). Calendar events can be set and notifications triggered, and remote status photos can be sent from the living room to a smartphone, for peace of mind. The comms bot can even spin around and snap a 360° panorama.

The Hello! measures 111 mm in diameter and 216 mm tall (4.3 x 8.5 in), weighs 1.085 kg (38 oz) and 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. A 4.6-inch, 1,280 x 720 resolution touchscreen display front and center shows status messages and video feeds, and wireless connectivity comes in the shape of integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, with tap-to-connect NFC technology also on offer. But there's a distinct lack of detail on its audio throwing capabilities, Sony just confirms that it has a single built-in speaker.

The multi-faceted Xperia Hello! communications robot is due for release in Japan only (at the moment) on November 18 for the rather high ticket price of ¥150,000 (about US$1,300). The promo video below (in Japanese) shows Hello! in action.

Source: Sony Mobile

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