Welcome to Far-flung Tech, an exploration of far-out and faraway technology!
All eyes were on the stunning solar eclipse this week, but the Japanese were mesmerized by a new star on the catwalk.
Fashion designer Yumi Katsura showed her latest wedding dresses in Osaka including a gown sported by the government's newly developed "cybernetic human," the HRP-4C, which Crave first told you about in March.
4C slowly shimmied down the 10-meter catwalk to the beat of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." She turned to look at attendees and said, "I've put on a wedding dress for the first time. I'm very happy today to wear this dress by Yumi Katsura."
At a photo op later on, the blushing bride stood next to Katsura and blinked at photographers snapping her picture. Check it out in the video below.
Organizers were billing the event as the first of its kind in the world, and I can't recall another example of a humanoid robot showing off wedding apparel in a fashion show.
It also demonstrated how the Japanese continue to nurture a playful spirit in their approach to robotics. While other countries are building Terminator-style killing machines, Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) created 4C to work in the "entertainment industry." Perhaps a dubious use of funds by a deeply indebted state, the project was announced with the admission that "(1) robots walking on two feet only have little commercial value, (2) the unit price is very high, and (3) if it falls, it may be seriously damaged."
AIST acknowledges the annual market for humanoid machines is small, to the tune of $21 million. So why build this expensive toy bride? I think the best answer is that 4C, which communicates, looks and moves like a Japanese woman and overcomes the dreaded Uncanny Valley effect, is a worthwhile exploration of future human-robot relationships. Pundits including Daniel Levy have written about our future love affairs with robots, and 4C in her floral gown is a provocative harbinger of human-machine integration.
Just ask AIST's Kazuhito Yokoi, one of the engineers who helped build 4C. "I feel like the father of the bride," Yokoi said at the fashion show. "I feel both happy and sad."
(Via Pink Tentacle)