May 17, 2010

Japanese Robot Conducts Wedding Ceremony

A robot with flashing eyes and plastic pigtails has conducted a wedding ceremony in Japan.

According to manufacturer Kokoro Co., the "I-Fairy" robot stands at 4-feet and was the first robot to have led a marriage.

"Please lift the bride's veil," the robot said in a tinny voice, waving its arms in the air as the newlyweds kissed in front of about 50 guests.

The wedding took place at a restaurant in Hibiya Park in central Tokyo, where the I-Fairy wore a wreath of flowers and directed a rooftop ceremony.  Wires led out from beneath it to a black curtain a few feet away where a man was crouched down, clicking commands into a computer.

Japan is the world's most advanced robot industries, with its government actively supported the field for future growth.  Industrial models in factories are now standard, but Japanese companies recently made a push to inject robots into everyday life.

Honda has created a walking child-shaped robot, and other companies have developed robots to entertain the elderly or play baseball.  Kokoro also makes giant dinosaur robots for exhibitions and lifelike android models that smile and laugh.  The company is a subsidiary of Sanrio Co., which owns the rights to Hello Kitty and other Japanese characters.

"This was a lot of fun. I think that Japanese have a strong sense that robots are our friends. Those in the robot industry mostly understand this, but people mainly want robots near them that serve some purpose," bride Satoko Inoue, 36, who works at manufacturer Kokoro, told the Associated Press.

"It would be nice if the robot was a bit more clever, but she is very good at expressing herself," new husband Tomohiro Shibata, 42, a professor of robotics at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in central Japan, told AP.

According to company spokeswoman Kayako Kido, the I-Fairy robot sells for about $68,000 and three are in use in Singapore, the U.S. and Japan.  The robot has 18 degrees of motion in its arms, and mainly repeats preprogrammed movements and sounds.


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