It may be centuries before scientists engineer a robot as sophisticated as Data from Star Trek: TNG, but they have at least managed to develop a robot capable of administering a simple wedding.
Meet I-Fairy, a 4-foot tall robot who looks and speaks like a pig-tailed toddler, but is intelligent enough to conduct a wedding. On Saturday, May 16, I-Fairy performed its first wedding at Hibiya Park in central Tokyo, where it brought together robotics professor Tomohiro Shibata, 42, and Kokoro-employee Satoko Inoue, 36.
The couple’s unorthodox decision to enlist a 6.3 million yen (approximately 70K USD) robotic wedding conductor stemmed partially from Satoko’s position at Kokoro, which is an animatronics company dedicated to the “development, planning and design, production, sales and leasing/rental of robots.”
According to the Associated Press, Kokoro is in fact a subsidiary of Sanrio Co., the international powerhouse responsible for Hello Kitty and the Actroid android.
Regardless, Satoko apparently had the time of her life. “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,” she said.
Her husband Tomohiro was a tad bit more skeptical, as he noted, “It would be nice if the robot was a bit more clever.”
Unfortunately, I-Fairy is limited to preprogrammed movements and sounds, not to mention a meager 18 degrees of arm rotation. Plus Kokoro’s official I-Fairy PDF reveals that the ultimate purpose was to design a simple information robot capable of acting “as a communication tool.”
Suffice it to say, it doesn’t look like I-Fairy will be receiving any major firmware upgrades anytime soon.