DoCoMo ports its Japanese voice assistant to a toy sheep

OHaNAS is a smart toy that can speak in Japanese and retrieve useful online information

From NTT DoCoMo and Tomy, OHaNAS is a smart toy that can speak in Japanese and retrieve useful online information.

From NTT DoCoMo and Tomy, OHaNAS is a smart toy that can speak in Japanese and retrieve useful online information.

While Microsoft has made its voice-driven Cortana assistant available across Windows 10 devices, Japanese mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo is porting its own helper to a different kind of hardware -- a toy sheep.

Developed with toy maker Tomy, the cartoonish plaything can have simple conversations in Japanese and connects via smartphones to DoCoMo's cloud-based natural-language dialogue platform. It's designed for family use.

The gadget is called OHaNAS, short for the awkward title Organized Human interface and Network Artificial intelligence System but also a play on the Japanese verb "hanasu," to speak. The latest in Tomy's long-running Omnibot toy series, it can talk about topics such as the weather, food or horoscopes, and engage in Q&A sessions with users aged 8 and up.

A promo video on YouTube shows the toy playing a word game with a girl, suggesting seasonal cooking ingredients to a woman, and telling a bedtime story.

OHaNAS has a round body, long floppy ears and glowing eyes that change color. Like many Japanese cartoon characters, it lacks a mouth or other facial features, leaving its expression to the user's imagination.

As it converses with users, OHaNAS can learn their preferences and hobbies. It can also take cues from conversation and search the Internet for relevant information. For instance, if a user mentions the need to do laundry, OHaNAS might search for and relay weather information that would affect drying clothes outdoors, a common practice in Japan.

Earlier this year, a planned new version of Mattel's Barbie doll raised privacy concerns related to its ability to record what children say and upload it to a cloud server.

Many Japanese toys and robots, including the Omnibot models from Tomy, have also featured conversation abilities. But the sheep is the first to use DoCoMo's sophisticated Shabette Concier smartphone voice agent, which can analyze linguistic patterns in spoken Japanese.

DoCoMo also wants to port the app to IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as connected cars and home appliances so people can simply talk to them instead of using manual controls or settings.

OHaNAS is slated to go on sale in Japan in October, priced at ¥19,800 (US$159).

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags NTT DoCoMoconsumer electronicsroboticsTomy

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?