For what was probably the first time in history, a Japanese couple was married under the cold mechanical gaze of a robot. Kokoro’s i-Fairy robot presided over the wedding ceremony of Tomohiro Shibata and Satoko Inoue at Tokyo’s Hibiyia Palace Park. Typically used to welcome visitors to a museum or make a splash at exhibitions, the i-Fairy had to have a new program written to perform the ritual, and it was operated by a nearby controller. Shibata, professor of robotics at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, and Inoue, who works at Kokoro, chose to have the robot at their wedding as a reminder of how they met, and as a sign of the importance of robotics in the future. Check out a clip from the ceremony below.
I met the i-Fairy at CES 2010: it’s a congenial robot with some nice capabilities retailing around $68,000 (¥6.3 million). Really though, it’s not so important which robot Shibata and Inoue decided upon, the fact that they chose to use a robot at all is the real news. This is a momentous day for the couple. And it’s not like this was an informal, humorous occasion. A black and white roof-top ceremony in Hibiya Park? That doesn’t come cheap. Emotionally and otherwise, their choice shows how invested they are in robots. To some degree, this event highlights how culturally pervasive bots have become in our society as well. Sure, both Shibata and Inoue work with robots as part of their careers, and sure this happened in Japan, which has probably the most pro-robot culture on the planet. Still, it’s clear that robots are moving away from the curiosity they were a few generations ago and becoming an accepted part of our lives. For a few, they are even a cherished part. Of course, I do worry. If we let robots play priest now, will they want to play God later?