If anyone doesn’t doubt there isn’t some serious social engineering going on in Japan, take a look at this new ¥250,000 anime in 3D that is being purchased by an increasing number of socially isolated Japanese males. A large population of Japanese males are deciding to preclude marriage if they in fact even get married at all. A Japanese company called Gatebox opened pre-orders for a new breed of virtual assistant. Gatebox users – lonely and socially isolated Japanese men – get to interact with a “female” 3-D anime character called “Azumi Hikari.” The anime character is being pitched as both a handy helper and a pseudo-girlfriend to help lonely Japanese men cope with their social isolation. Why do you think so many people are interested in robot pets when so many real animals need a home? Is it because you can turn it off when you don’t want to be responsible anymore?
The Creepy Virtual Assistant That Embodies Japan’s Biggest Problems
by David E. Morris
December 18, 2016
Last week, a Japanese company called Gatebox opened pre-orders for a new breed of virtual assistant. While Alexa and Google Home are a bit lacking in the personality department, Gatebox users get to interact with a 3-D anime character called Azumi Hikari. She’s being pitched as both a handy helper—and a pseudo-girlfriend.
Yes, it’s icky (kimoi in Japanese). But it’s more than that. The Gatebox encapsulates (literally) the social isolation that has strangled Japan’s once-vibrant economy.
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If that sounds like a stretch, just look at the bleak promotional video Gatebox released last Tuesday. It begins as a Gatebox/Hikari wakes a young man, informs him of the weather, and gets him to work on schedule. So far so good—though there’s a hint of something weird when he turns to tell her/it goodbye.
Things get really depressing, though, as the Gatebox/Hikari texts the young man throughout the day (it includes a chatbot), even encouraging him longingly to “Come home early.” When he finally calls it a day, he’s sure to let “her” know, and she replies with an excited “Yay!”
Finally, as he lies down to sleep, the young man shares his true feelings with the appliance. “You know, while I was on my way home, I thought—it feels great that someone’s waiting for me.”
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