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Japanese Couple Married by Robot

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This isn't so much a Dose of Awesome like some of the other things I've brought you. This is more a dose of "what the hell, that actually happened" mixed in with an eerie coincidence. After completing a review of the movie Vexille, which deals with robotics and Japan, finding this article about a Japanese couple tying the knot with a robot celebrant was just too freaky a coincidence to pass up.


The couple, bride Satoko Inoue and groom Tomohiro Shibata, were married by the 1.5m tall I-Fairy manufactured by Kokoro Co. The robot features plastic pigtails, flashing eyes which are used to depict expression and, for the occasion, it donned a wreath of flowers. Its arms are capable of movements like waving a hand or reaching behind it and, while it is capable of speech, it requires a programmer to input the desired words.That programmer can also program in a variety of movements, like dance moves, which the robot can perform.


Now you must be wondering who would spend $76,000, the price of an I-Fairy, on a robot celebrant? Well the bride works for Kokoro Co. and the groom is a professor of robotics. Clearly there is no better couple to be, what Kokoro are claiming, the participants in the first robot led wedding. It would be interesting to know whether, due to the bride's position at the company, they actually own the robot or whether it was loaned to them for the occasion. Apparently there are three in use in Singapore, the US, and Japan, so I think they may have been lent it.


This seems like one of those stories that could only of come from Japan. While films like Vexille depict a future where Japan is the leader in robotics and has a love affair with the technology it is the same story here in the present. We've seen the HRP-4C robot supermodel which was debuted last year and was made to look like the average 19-29 year old Japanese woman, while reports from 2008 show that Japan is seriously thinking about the widespread implementation of a robotic workforce to combat an aging population. As the bride said "I think the Japanese have a strong sense that robots are our friends," a view the Government seems to share, so maybe that's the reason why they are so quick on the robotic uptake. 


While this is just a robot led marriage, the advancements in robotics and its implementation in Japanese society is huge. It's clearly too early (and I'm clearly too under-qualified) to speculate how robotics will affect society and whether the changes it will bring will be for the best, but with so many movies, like Vexille, appearing to act as a warning in regards to the implementation of robotics, and specifically its use as a replacement for roles filled by people, you'd hope we won't share a similar fate to the ones portrayed in those films.


The future may be uncertain but Japan is determined to lead the world down the slippery robotic slope and having robot celebrants is clearly just the start. The question is, where will that slope take us? 


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