Another week, another robotic first in Japan. Robot makers in the country have already created robots that can play the violin, kick a soccer ball and dance up a storm. Now, we can add “officiate a wedding” to the list.
Tokyo-based robotics maker Kokoro built the robot minister that presided over a wedding on Sunday. In true, Wizard of Oz fashion, the robot was remote controlled by an operator who sat behind a curtain nearby. The whole shindig was evidently a publicity stunt for Kokoro, whose main job is building animatronic dinosaurs, as the bride is an employee of the company.
Kokoro does do some impressive stuff. Check out some video of one of their other robots, the Actroid, which does a reasonable job of passing for a human:
The wedding robot – known as an I-Fairy – does prove what some American robotics companies have been saying about their Japanese counterparts, that they’re expensive and largely useless. According to the Associated Press story, the I-Fairy costs about $68,000 and works mostly by remote control (a few are evidently in operation in Singapore, the U.S. and Japan), which means it’s a pretty costly toy that actually does little.
Compare the I-Fairy to something like the $300 Roomba vacuum cleaner, made by Boston’s iRobot, and it’s pretty clear which country’s robotics companies are pushing the envelope. And who are those companies’ main customers? The military, of course.
(Photo courtesy Associated Press)