In the world of steadily increasing technological achievements, breaking of social norms in the wake of a vastly different world that changes each day, and the tradition of Tokyo in being some of the first to embrace new technologies in a very personal way, it’s no surprise to find out that the world’s first wedding overseen by a robot took place there. But the priest who could have been featured in the book I, Robot is actually called an i-Fairy.
When they say all eyes are on the bride, this may have not been the case in the wedding ceremony held last week. In reality, most eyes were on the colorful creature of blinking lights that was performing the ceremony in a robotic voice. The i-Fairy is usually used to direct visitors in upscale establishments, museums, and conventions. But as a favor to Tomohiro Shibata, the programmers changed the robot’s protocols to make it an automaton of the cloth for an evening. The Groom was dressed in a black tuxedo, the bride in a white flowing gown, and the robot in its best metal and plastic casing with a flower wreath around its head.
Satako Inoue, the bride, works for the company that creates the i-Fairy while the husband Shibata is a customer. The two met through the robotics establishment, making robots the first thing the two ever talked about. And then with the i-Fairy at their wedding, it was also one of the first things they heard from and saw after becoming man and wife. Shibata wanted the wedding to be a symbol not only of their love, but after the ceremony she spoke to reporters saying she wanted it to be the first to show that robots could be a part of every day life for not only them, but all people.
Though it was residing over the ceremony, it was “seated” (or more accurately bolted to its stand) and had to be assisted into and out of the room by a team of technicians. A cable ran from the base of the robot into a curtained command center where an operator controlled the actions and movements of the robot to a limited degree, though the robot had been preprogrammed to perform much of the ceremony on its own. Shibata says the claim that robots were what first got them together was true, and that they wanted to do something special for their wedding. The bride said she loved the i-Fairy model of robot and loved the idea of having one at her wedding ceremony.
Kokoro limited, which makes the i-Fairy says though this isn’t the original intended use of the machine, it performed its duties beautifully and the ceremony indeed went off without a hitch (pun partially intended). With a work force of almost a million industrial robots, it’s nice to see the machines making progress into the more domestic fields as the company moves forward. Current projections of the industry say it could exceed $10 billion in the next few years.