"I do" goes high-tech with Japan robot priest

Mon May 17, 2010 3:44am EDT
 
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TOKYO (Reuters) - The groom looked dashing, his bride resplendent in white, but all eyes in this Japanese wedding were on the priest, a four-foot tall robot with colorful, flashing eyes called i-Fairy.

The robot is usually used in museum and exhibitions to direct visitors, but with the help of a flower headpiece, and a new programme, it pronounced Satoko Inoue and Tomohiro Shibata man and wife at a Sunday ceremony.

The event is being billed as the first ever wedding presided over by a robot, a fitting marriage for the couple who met through the machines.

The bride, Inoue, works for the company that makes the i-Fairy, and her husband, Shibata, is a client.

"It's true that robots are what caused us to first begin going out, and as suggested by my wife, we decided that we wanted to try this sort of wedding," Shibata said after making his vows.

After saying "I do," the bride said that she wanted to use her wedding to show people that robots can easily fit into their daily lives.

"I always felt that robots would become more integrated into people's everyday lives. This cute robot is part of my company, I decided that I would love to have it at my ceremony," Inoue said.

Makers of the robot, Kokoro Ltd, said that while they are still selling the i-Fairy with the stated purpose of helping visitors, they're happy for the machine to help weddings cross the digital divide.

Japan is home to almost half the world's 800,000 industrial robots and expects the industry to expand to $10 billion.

It is also one of the world's fastest aging societies and experts say robots can help care for the growing number of elderly, and fill in for the lack of young people willing to take on jobs as chefs, cleaners or caretakers.

(Reporting by Chris Meyers, editing by Miral Fahmy)

 
<p>Satoko Inoue (R) puts on a wedding ring for Tomohiro Shibata in front of a humanoid robot named "I-Fairy" during their wedding ceremony in Tokyo May 16, 2010. "The couple decided to use the robot, which conducted the ceremony with its audio functions, from Inoue's company to perform the witness' duties as they first met due to common work interest related to robots. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao</p>