Maywa Denki robot Frois “marries” android Roborin in Japan’s first robot wedding ceremony

Written by: William on June 29, 2015 at 9:26 am | In NEW TECH | 1 Comment

Just an ordinary weekend in Tokyo? Wrong. Saturday witnessed the first ever robot wedding.

As we reported back in May, Maywa Denki’s Frois bot and the AKB48 Yuki Kashiwagi idol-lookalike android Yukirin (here renamed Roborin) joined together in holy matrimony at Aoyama Cay in Spiral, central Tokyo.

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

The non-legally binding ceremony was an event (called Robo-kon, or “robot wedding”) produced by Japan’s favorite tech and music anarchists, Maywa Denki, who created the “groom” (Frois). The “bride” was made by Takayuki Todo in the likeness of a certain Japanese music idol (whose name was withheld from the official PR materials).

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

The handful of lucky guests who attended (paying ¥10,000, or more than $80 for the privilege) witnessed the happy occasion as the mechanical couple tied the knot.

The proceedings were presided over by Aldebaran and Softbank’s robot Pepper, who can normally be found in certain Softbank phone stores offering entertainment to customers. Frois may not be the most conventionally good-looking of grooms: “he” is a kind of large red bath stool robot. Well, who says romance is dead?

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

The wedding ceremony pulled out all the bells and whistles, with a male and female MC, Pepper as the “priest”, plus a walk (actually, more like being gently wheeled) down the aisle, a cake — and even a kiss.

maywa denki frois roborin yukirin yuki kashiwagi akb48 android robot wedding marriage ceremony event japan tokyo spiral

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Head-kun: a robotic vacuum cleaner that creates drip painting art

Written by: William on June 26, 2015 at 11:03 am | In NEW TECH | 3 Comments

Tails of Head is a project by HYdeJII where a specially adapted robotic vacuum cleaner creates paintings using multiple colors.

Head-kun (aka Mr Head) is the artist. According to his (?) profile, Head-kun is 15 years old and a robotic painter converted from an unnamed robotic vacuum cleaner product by iRobot.

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

The process is very time-consuming but involves Head-kun traveling over the same space countless times, dripping different acrylic paints onto a canvas measuring 1,000mm x 1,000mm.

This is Spring Starburst (2015).

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

This is Spring Worm Hole (2014).

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

tails of head head-kun japanese vacuum cleaner robotic roomba drip painting art

While paintings created by robots is not a new gimmick by any means, we haven’t seen one done by a vacuum cleaner bot like this before. Sure there was a nice light painting by Roomba cleaners and a iRobot Scooba 450 did some impressive seascapes, but Head-kun is surely the Jackson Pollock of this genre.

Here is how Head-kun created his drip paintings.

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Engadget Reitaisai 2015: Robot wedding, sexual radishes, and interactive glasses

Written by: William on June 2, 2015 at 11:03 am | In NEW TECH | No Comments

The tech and design festival Engadget Reitaisai was held at 3331 Arts Chiyoda last weekend.

The event showcases prototypes and new tech products and gadgets, both the wacky and genuinely innovative variety.

Here are some highlights.

One section was provocatively called the “Refreshing Sex Museum”.

peppai pepper robot breasts touch

SoftBank robot Pepper got a Hatsune Miku-tinted feminine makeover and emerged as Peppai. This is a pun on the Japanese word for breasts (oppai), as this Pepper droid does indeed display her (?) chest in all its glory on a screen. Needless to say, male visitors had trouble keeping their hands to themselves.

The same room also featured the Sexual Harassment Interface, where offers an interactive erotic experience with sound and radishes. The more you stroke, the more they groan!

sexual harassment interface daikon radishes

Another room showcased uses for the JINS MEME glasses, which track your eye movements. This included one booth where the JINS MEME were used to play a video game. The “jumps” of the player were tracked by the glasses, which then replicated them in the game.

The event is tongue-in-cheek and geeky, with plenty of inventive but “useless” gadgets and ideas. There was also a Maywa Denki exhibition, ahead of their staging of the first robot marriage ceremony in Tokyo this month.

robot wedding marriage maywa denki frois yukirin

Although the Engadget event is not as famous as the hugely successful Niconico Chokaigi, it featured around 1,000 participants for the summer and winter events in 2014, and the buzz surrounding it was strong this year.

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Japan’s first robot wedding: Maywa Denki’s Frois and Yuki Kashiwagi android Yukirin join together in holy matrimony

Written by: William on May 4, 2015 at 11:03 am | In COOL PRODUCTS, CULTURE | 2 Comments

Get ready for what tech fans have been waiting their whole lives for: a robot wedding.

The “Robo-kon” marriage ceremony event is being produced Maywa Denki, the cult makers of nonsense machines and music gadgets.

frois yukirin robot marriage ceremony wedding event tokyo japan android maywa denki cay aoyama june yuki kashiwagi akb48

The mechanical bride and groom will be walking (or equivalent motion) down the aisle at Aoyama Cay on June 27th in central Tokyo.

Who are the happy couple?

The “groom” is Frois, a robot developed by Maywa Denki with a head inspired by a bath stool (we’re not kidding), while the “bride” is Yukirin, the android made in the likeness of AKB48 idol Yuki Kashiwagi.

For the occasion — and perhaps copyright reasons — Yukirin has been renamed Roborin by creator Takayuki Todo. Fear not, “she” still looks like Yuki Kashiwagi.

frois yukirin robot marriage ceremony wedding event tokyo japan android maywa denki cay aoyama june yuki kashiwagi akb48

If you want to see Frois and Yukirin exchange their vows, tickets cost ¥10,000 (over $80) and are limited to the first 100 persons.

Shibuya ward recently gave tacit approval to same-sex marriage. Is human-robot marriage next on the agenda?

After all, there are no android receptionists in Japan’s department stores.

Appropriately enough, the MC for the wedding ceremony will be Pepper, the robot co-developed by Softbank and who is “manning” some branches of the mobile phone giant in Tokyo.

We’re looking forward to the way the ceremony will work. Will there be a kiss? And what will they be wearing?!

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Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo hires Aiko Chihira, an android guide

Written by: William on April 16, 2015 at 5:08 pm | In NEW TECH | 1 Comment

Meet Aiko Chihira. She speaks Japanese and wears a kimono. She greets customers and conveys information.

But Aiko’s not Japanese. She’s not even human.

She’s an android made by Toshiba and now she works at Mitsukoshi, the high-end department store in Nihonbashi.

toshiba mitsukoshi aiko chihira android humanoid robot department store tokyo japan reception staff

Unfortunately she can’t converse or respond to questions, unlike the more interactive Nao humanoid robot, currently serving Mitsubishi UFJ bank customers, or Pepper, the friendly droid greeting visitors to Softbank stores.

But she blinks, bows, moves her (sorry, its) mouth and lips. She is programmed with human-like facial expressions and can offer a looped vocal guidance to department store customers.

For example, if you want to hear about the layout or an event, this robot will tell you.

She can even communicate in sign language, so at least the uncanny valley is barrier free for the deaf.

toshiba mitsukoshi aiko chihira android humanoid robot department store tokyo japan reception staff

Toshiba describes her as the “quiet type” who is “happy to help people”. Something tells us there might be some male fantasies at play here…

Find Aiko on the ground floor of Mitsukoshi. Sadly, she’s not a permanent addition. She will only be “working” at the store on April 20th and April 21st. She is a promotional feature as part of a longer Toshiba event at the seventh floor Hajimarino Cafe from April 22nd to May 5th.

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Hakuhodo showcases iDoll and other “prototypes of the future” at SXSW Interactive Festival

Written by: William on March 17, 2015 at 9:04 am | In COOL PRODUCTS | 4 Comments

Visitors to SXSW Interactive Festival (SXSWi) (March 13-22, 2015) in Austin should head to the Hakuhodo Group exhibition booth, “Prototyping the Future”.

Hakuhodo will be showcasing several of its futuristic product ideas, including the Memory Clock, a device which shows photos the same date they were taken. If you have more than one Memory Clock, even if you are apart from your loved ones, you can still view the photos at the same time.

The Memory Clock is just one of the monom innovation project that advertising agency Hakuhodo has been developing. The name means “mono” (thing) and a series of “m” words: magic, marketing, message, move.

idoll hakuhodo robot doll moe otaku character south by southwest austin interactive festival

The first product in the series is the iDoll. This mini robotic doll dances, greets you and even jokes around like it has a personality. It reproduces human movements in a realistic way

Jointly developed by Yukai Engineering, iDoll is controlled by the user’s mobile phone and can acquire movements and speech that you teach it.

idoll hakuhodo robot doll moe otaku character south by southwest austin interactive festival

It is small enough to sit on your palm and is about 15cm tall. There are three versions currently developed: a plain prototype one, and two female moe character versions.

idoll hakuhodo robot doll moe otaku character south by southwest austin interactive festival

The iDoll prototype will apparently be available “soon”. For now, head to Austin to check out the SXSWi booth.

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Premium Cocorobo Imouto Version: Sharp’s moe “little sister” character robotic vacuum cleaner goes on sale

Written by: Japan Trends on November 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm | In COOL PRODUCTS | 1 Comment

After teasing us with the prototype back in the spring, Sharp has now made its moe version of the Cocorobo vacuum cleaner an actual product.

The Premium Cocorobo Imouto Version will only be available for online orders in November and December, with orders set to be delivered in mid-January. However, if it proves popular, we expect at the least the electronic stores in Akihabara will be carrying this “little sister” model of the cleaner.

Sharp’s Cocorobo is a successful robotic vacuum cleaner series that can talk to you. Add a cute female anime character (“Cocorobo-chan”) and a suitably moe “sister” voice and you have the concept for this Akiba-flavored version.

sharp cocorobo imouto premium vacuum cleaner robot anime moe character otaku talking akihabara

The Premium Cocorobo Imouto Version is voiced by the 16-year-old actress Ibuki Kido and with illustrations and character design by mangaka Kinusa Shimotsuki. It (she?) can tell you the weather and also greets you with a “Good morning, darling”, and even talks to you about famous regional spots around Japan. Since the voice actress hails from Aomori, Cocorobo-chan even switches into local dialect sometimes.

Sharp debuted the female robot in March and wanted 11 people to test it at home. They got over 1,200 applicants for the trial in just a week, so we can assume they are confident that mass production is going to be worthwhile for their coffers.

sharp cocorobo imouto premium vacuum cleaner robot anime moe character otaku talking akihabara

It draws on a cloud for the data to create the “conversations”, meaning it can respond to the season and weather for that day.

Such cuteness comes at a price. It costs a whopping ¥148,000 ($1,200).

If your budget doesn’t stretch that far or your tastes are rather different, we recommend you try out the regular Sharp Cocorobo vacuum cleaners instead.

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CEATEC 2014: Toshiba unveils Aiko Chihira, a talking, signing android robot

Written by: William on October 8, 2014 at 10:54 am | In NEW TECH | 4 Comments

It seems that everyone has a robot these days, even SoftBank.

At CEATEC 2014, Japan’s biggest tech event, Toshiba has unveiled its contribution to the Japanese robot canon — an android that can talk and sign.

ceatec 2014 aiko chihira android robot sign language toshibaImage via The Verge

Aiko Chihira is an example of what Toshiba hopes will be a new line in humanoid communication robots that can “man” receptions and also help with nursing people, a chronic problem as Japan’s population ages.

Aiko Chihira has silicone skin — uncannily like Orient Industry sex dolls, then! — and was jointed developed by aLab Inc., Osaka University, Shibaura Institute of Technology and Shonan Institute of Technology.

Aiko Chihira is equipped with 43 servomotors that move her arms and hands. While it is common to see androids and robots that can interact and converse, one that has also mastered sign language is unusual.

Toshiba anticipates having enhanced Aiko Chihira’s technology so much by 2020 that it will be able to serve as an actual guide for foreign visitors to the Tokyo Olympic Games! Would that make you feel more welcome to the Olympics or rather put off?

CEATEC kicked off yesterday in Chiba’s Makuhari Messe and this year features a host of 4K televisions, fuel-cell and hydrogen technology, as well as a Sharp-developed color infrared car camera.

toshiba glasses ceatec 2014Image via The Verge

Toshiba also showed off its answer to the Google Glasses at the expo, Toshiba Glass, though we’re not sure why it has opted for the peculiarly singular noun. Is there only one lens?

Oh, and there was an obligatory ping-pong robot from Omron. If Aiko Chihira is going to take care of visitors, will this table tennis bot be a future Olympic athlete, then?

ceatec 2014 omron table tennis ping pong rally robotImage via The Verge

Probably not, since Omron has designed the tech so it doesn’t try to beat the opponent, just sustain a rally of a 100 strokes. Phew. Saying that, the sheer size of the robot still makes it pretty intimating to play against!

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Roboko: Shinjuku Kabukicho Robot Restaurant gets its own mascot character

Written by: William on September 4, 2014 at 8:08 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

It generated enough headlines when it opened and now it will surely get some more.

The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku Kabukicho launched in late 2012 on a wave of publicity, not least for its enormous budget and advertising campaign featuring the eponymous robot vehicles been driven. Even if it wasn’t your thing, admit it — you were curious too, right?

And now the Robot Restaurant has its own mascot character, Roboko. (Strictly speaking, they have simply rebranded their robotic vehicles that star in the show as a mascot.)

Roboko is taking part in Japan’s “battle of the mascots”, last year won by Sanomaru. The robotic vixen is entry #55 in the corporate character competition in the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix, which is decided by public voting.

roboko robot restaurant kabukicho shinjuku mascot character yuru-kyara grand prix competition

We’re not sure about Roboko’s chances against the likes of Kumamon and Funassyi, but you can’t knock them for trying. Last year there were 1,245 regional mascots and 335 corporate characters in the running. The top two regional mascots (the corporate ones get a separate ranking) had over 1 million votes each! (In other words, entering the competition is great for getting more exposure.) The 2013 Grand Prix’s top corporate mascot was Kosuke, the character for the Japanese Cooperative Insurance Association.

The restaurant has made over 10 of its “robots”, with the first ones on display in the entrance as they were apparently actually too big to fit in the final space. They reckon this makes Roboko perhaps the largest yuru-kyara in Japan!

shinjuku kabukicho robot restaurant tokyo

As we wrote in a review last year, we found the Robot Restaurant a bit half-baked. There aren’t any genuine “robots” in the show, more like vehicles that that the dancers ride around on. And despite the risque outfits, it’s not really an adult show nor a regular idol event — something that sits oddly in between. And the staff at the reception were just like you’d expect from a venue located in Tokyo’s most notoriously sleazy district, i.e., pretty unwelcoming.

It also felt significant that around half the clientele were foreign (the restaurant ranked 16th on a recent list of most popular sightseeing spots in Japan for overseas visitors). Anyway, we don’t want to sound too snarky, we are sure that the show must have some appeal and we wish Roboko all the best in the competition. We would say “break a leg” but we doubt that’s physically possible for her.

Voting continues until October 20th, with the winners announced in November.

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