It’s no secret that the Japanese are hard at work developing robots for domestic use. While the Western image of a domestic robot involves vacuuming the floor, doing the dishes, and carrying out the trash, the Japanese are focused on domestic robots that are much more like a family member . . .
The Wakamaru robot, developed by Mitsubishi, is a good example. Wakamaru “speaks to people and lives with the family. ‘wakamaru’ is useful for your life at home. . . ‘wakamaru’ is completely different from conventional industrial robots or pet robots, as he can provide various service functions and communicate with people spontaneously.”
Young child treating Wakamaru like another child
Watching people interact with Wakamaru at a robot exhibition in Tokyo recently, it was amazing how relaxed and comfortable they were with the robot. Adults easily chatted with him as if he was a real person, and children immediately bonded. It was as if they had found a new friend.
The child laughed, giggled, and tried chatting with Wakamaru
Here’s a set of short video clips showing Wakamaru interacting with people at the exhibition:
The robot’s voice recognition includes about 10,000 words and enables him to carry on a limited conversation with people. It also recognizes people by their face, turns to face you when speaking, and has a very human like body language – even down to tilting its head to the side.
Why the name, “Wakamaru”? According to Mitsubishi-
"wakamaru" is nicknamed after a young Japanese samurai, Minamoto Yoshitsune, whose childhood name was "Ushi-wakamaru" and who is associated with "growth" and "development." Two sensors on the forehead have reminded of the characteristic eyebrows of Yoshitsune.
Wakamaru Webpage – English