Phone design tries to bring callers closer, by repelling them

Outslide that feels like skin makes owner's skin crawl

This little item is kind of a two-fer: it shows that plans by the Chinese government (and wish of some in the U.S. ) to track citizens using cell phones isn't the creepiest thing in mobile computing.

And, reconfirms Japan as the country whose geeks are most consistent in going for IT design that's warm and comforting but ends up as incredibly creepy.

Remember the Actroid? It's designed as a multiple-language-speaking companionish thing that moves "realistically," appears to breathe, and includes a feature called "Expressive Features;" quotes are original.

Although it's designed to look generically actress-attractive (which helped me mistake it at first for 3-D fan art from the Futurama episode in which Fry dates a Lucy Liu robot-lookalike.

Actroid is creepy; her little sister is straight horror movie.

The little-doll-shaped phone with an outer layer that feels like human skin, on the other hand, is designed to make the user feel closer to the person on the other end of the line, according to researchers at Japan's Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International.

It's a university project with NTT DoCoMo that may go into commercial production in five years or so, after it gets image- and voice-recognition, among other features.

Maybe the next edition can look nothing like a person and have an outer layer that feels just like the skin of a phone?

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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