Among a gathering of friends and family on a rooftop garden in Tokyo, with strains of “Ave Maria” playing in the background, Tomohiro Shibata and Satoko Inoue exchanged wedding vows—not under the blessing of pastor or priest, but before the flashing eyes and plastic pigtails of I-Fairy, a robot made by Kokoro. For some years now people around the world have been getting married while skydiving, in underwater ceremonies performed in scuba tanks, and in ceremonies with hundreds of bridal couples, but newlyweds Tomohiro and Satoko achieved a first in tying the knot with a robot at the helm.
Once again the innovative Japanese have taken a concept to the next level with the help of technology. First it was the K-LRMCD kiss transmission device for long distance kissing, and now we have another machine performing weddings. Could it happen anywhere else but Japan? The I-Fairy is a four-foot tall wedding robot in the form of a seated, and vaguely feminine humanoid with a head adorned in flowers and ribbons. The feminine aspect is boosted by the robot’s female voice as ‘she’ conducts the service.
The I-Fairy robot’s autonomy is impressive, but in the case of weddings, an engineer out of sight in the wings operates a keyboard to ensure a smooth ceremony. It is pre-programmed with scripted words and actions that it carries out during the service. To date, Kokoro has produced five of the I-Fairy robots and sold two of them.
The wedding couple were a natural choice for electronic nuptials. The groom is an associate professor in the Theoretical Life-Science Lab at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, and his bride is an employee at Kokoro, the company making I-Fairy robots. For her part, Satoko was more than satisfied with the decision to put her wedding in the hands of her company’s android, declaring after the wedding: “This was a lot of fun. Japanese have a strong sense that robots are our friends and hopefully our actions set a precedent for spreading the use of robots in Japanese society.” For his part, Tomohiro said, “It’s true that robots are what brought us together, and as suggested by my wife, we decided that we wanted to try this sort of wedding. It would be nice if the robot were a bit more clever, but she is very good at expressing herself.”
For anyone interested in opening a robot wedding chapel, you can have one of Kokoro’s robots for $81,000.