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First-Ever Robot Wedding Nuptials Takes Place in Tokyo

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by underthesea

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In The News

Almost everyone stood when the bride walked down the aisle in her white gown, just not the wedding conductor who was bolted to a chair. The nuptials for this wedding ceremony were led by "I-Fairy," a 4-foot tall seated robot, complete with flashing eyes and plastic pigtails.
The recent wedding marks the first time a marriage has ever been led by a robot, according to its manufacturer Kokoro Co. "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 robot was adorned in a wreath of flowers to direct the rooftop ceremony. Wires led from beneath it a black curtain a few feet away, where a man crouched and clicked commands into a computer. Very Wizard of Oz-esque. Japan has one of the most advanced robotics industries in the world, with the Japanese government actively supporting the field for future growth.
Industrial models in Japan factories are now standard, but now Japanese companies are making a direct push to inject robots into everyday life. And that includes the non-everyday occasion of weddings. Honda makes a walking child-shaped robot, with other Japanese firms having developed robots to entertain the elderly or play baseball. Kokoro, whose corporate goal is to "touch the hearts of the people," also makes giant dinosaur robots for exhibitions and lifelike android models that can smile and laugh.
The robot-manufacturing company which makes the "I-Fairy" is a subsidiary of Sanrio Co., the well-loved Japanese company that also entertains in the U.S., which owns the rights to Hello Kitty and other Japanese characters. "This was a lot of fun. I think that the 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," said wedding bride Satoko Inoue, 36, who works at manufacturer Kokoro. How fitting: the robot's first marriage is overseeing one of the creating company's own employees.
"It would be nice if the robot was a bit more clever, but she is very good at expressing herself," said new husband Tomohiro Shibata, 42, a professor of robotics at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in central Japan.
The "I-Fairy" model, used to oversee last week's Tokyo wedding nuptials, sells for about 6.3 million yen (roughly US $68,000) and only three of the robots are currently in use in Singapore, the U.S. and Japan. The robot's got 18 degrees of motion in its arms, and mainly repeats pre-programmed movements and sounds. So, no adding of hard-to-read or creative vows. No word on possible rentals of the wedding robot-but at $68,000, the price tag isn't currently reducing wedding costs.

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