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Wakamaru: Mistubishi's Personal Robot, No Longer Personal, But Still 'Alive'

Let me start out this post by letting you know that this 'personal' home robot by Mitsubishi, which initially listed at $8,500.00 USD when introduced to the market in 2005, is no longer available for purchase. When he first came out, there was a lot of news about him and I wondered what had happened to Wakamaru?

Apparently he got a job as a salesman at the New York Soho Uniqlo store!

Yep, I saw on Engadget that he's now being used in the SOHO Uniqlo store as a salesman (salesrobot?) of sorts.

Read the story about that here.

Back to our little "Wakamaru". He was created by the development staff at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., incorporating advanced robot technology and designed by Toshiyuki Kita. "Wakamaru" was created to communicate with people and all of his features were developed to enable such communication.

"Wakamaru" is not a home electric appliance you just turn on when you want to use it. Nor is it a robot that will activate after receiving a command. Rather, it remains active without the assistance of humans as long as it is powered on. "Wakamaru" has its own rhythm of life and moves around autonomously. It will want to be near people in movement, stay active throughout the day by charging itself, and rest up at the charging station at night.

"Wakamaru's" rhythm of life may be left autonomous or set to a pre-determined schedule.
He can recognize the faces of people that have been recorded, respond when spoken to, meet a person's gaze, offer up subjects of conversation, etc., all to ensure naturally rich communication. As "wakamaru" freely moves about a predetermined area and decides for itself when to recharge, its movement require no human assistance.

How does he work?

"Wakamaru" may operate continuously as long as it is powered on. The owner may set a time at which "wakamaru" will become active in the morning, or stop at night.
"Wakamaru's" daily activities may be set by day of the week.
The following four modes of activity may be selected:
1) Stay at charging station.
2) Stay near office.
3) Circulate around designed area.
4) Sleep at charging station.
"Wakamaru" will recharge or move as necessary when in modes 1) - 3) , When in mode 4), It will be inactive unless instructed for activity. During the night, he will remain at the charging station as per mode 4).

"Wakamaru's" eyes are not only necessary from a technological viewpoint, but their size and shape were created to take on and express emotions. This is intrinsically connected to "wakamaru's" personality. Wide eyes express understanding when being spoken to, indicating that reliable communication is established. Eye expressions have been choreographed to create a partner of credible intelligence.

The mouth may take on a slight smile or even express an air of melancholy. As with the eyes, the mouth will change depending on the emotions of the person with whom the robot has contact. This robot actually assumes a role when "living with humans."

Although the eyebrows were designed to serve a functional necessity, their position and shape ended up giving rise to "wakamaru's" character. In fact, the name "wakamaru" came from the resemblance to 12th century warrior Ushiwakamaru's eyebrows. As with Ushiwakamaru, who grew up to be the famous Yoshitsune, we can expect growth and development in the future.

So, if you really want to meet Wakamaru, I guess you'd better go mosey over to the Uniqlo store in Soho and ask him to help you out.

Above: designer Toshiyuki Kita

By the way, if you really want your own personal robot, Gecko Systems just announced the release of their latest, the CareBot MSR 3.8 Read the press release here

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