A mobile phone that resembles a human being, and which has a skin-like outer layer to enable users to feel closer to those on the other end has been developed by Japanese researchers.
The Elfoid is a smaller version of the Telenoid R1, the robotic answering machine developed by the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR).
Telenoid R1 looked more than a little like a disembodied Casper, and could mimic speech and gestures sent to it by videophone, replicating a distant caller's presence.
The Elfoid is the same, but fits in your pocket and tickles you when you've got a call.
"The mobile phone may feel like the person you are talking to," News.com.au quoted the ATR as saying, while describing the gadget as a "revolutionary telecom medium".
The project is a collaboration between Osaka University, the mobile telephone operator NTT DoCoMo and other institutes.
They hope to put it into commercial production within five years by adding image and voice recognition functions.
ATR officials said the prototype, slightly bigger than the size of a palm, features an outer coating that feels like human skin.
A speaker is installed in the head of the doll-like gadget and a light-emitting diode in its chest turns blue when the phone is in use and red when it is in standby mode.
ATR added that the body resembles a human being but its design is so blurred that it could be taken as either male or female and young or old.