Unholy robo-fetus Elfoid is your new cell phone

Why does your phone have to be a boring rectangle? Why not a half-baked person?

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read

Can you hear me, Grandpa? It's Satan. I mean, Billy. Osaka University and ATR

Japanese demon-spawn Telenoid, the nightmarish fetus-like telepresence robot, has had a little half-baked runt of its own. As we reported at a January preview, Elfoid is a humanoid-shaped cell phone that tries to look cute. And lives in your pocket.

Osaka University roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, never a stranger to controversy with his lifelike robot clones, outdid himself again with his Eraserhead-like baby.

A few details of the android (not Android) phone were released at a press conference today in Tokyo. Elfoid is covered with creamy polyurethane foam and is about 8 inches long. The idea is that it works as a robot cell phone, conveying the "presence" of the person you're talking to. With only vaguely formed features, it's designed to be a surrogate of people of any age or gender.

Developed at Japan's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), Elfoid P1, as it's called, is a very basic humanoid shape housing a simple 3G cell phone from Qualcomm. There are no buttons, but its chest emits an eerie green light when you're talking to someone.

So far the cell-baby can't move its arms or head like Telenoid, but Ishiguro and colleagues are planning to equip it with mini-actuators and shape memory alloy so it can imitate the movements of the person on the other end of the line. They want to launch it within five years. See more pics here.

Ishiguro said people who want a more realistic sensation of someone's presence would benefit from Elfoid compared to smart phones and standard cell phones.

No doubt in the future we'll be customizing our little Elfoids with clothes and accessories. I plan to stick mine with needles.