Mitsubishi Hiring Out Robots as Receptionists

Illustration for article titled Mitsubishi Hiring Out Robots as Receptionists

Robots have long been a mainstay on high-end factory floors, but now they're getting a lot more socially adept, and are even interacting with humans in the workplace. These Mitsubishi robots, named Wakamaru, are being hired out in Japan as receptionists for $1000 a day or $25,000 a year. It turns out these goofy-looking yellow droids are pretty good at the job, recognizing faces and even chatting it up with the customers, using their 10,000-word vocabulary to amaze and entertain, and possibly annoy.

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Standing a childlike 3'3" tall and weighing 66 pounds, the robots cut a decidedly non-imposing figure, flashing a dorky-looking expression and generally doing nonthreatening things. They are at able to perform a few manual tasks, however, and we're thinking that bringing us a beer might not be too challenging for these little droids. While we see opportunities for employing nonjudgmental servants, others may sense the beginning of the end for humanity. It might be a little of both. [Pink Tentacle, via Ubergizmo]

DISCUSSION

So there I was at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kobe Machine Works, several years ago, where these little critters are born. In the room were 30 or so Wakamaru robots. Being somewhat taller than my Japanese colleagues, I found it a bit un-nerving when the robots would "track" my movements as I walked around the room. Like a tennis match in slow motion, wherever I walked, their heads would pivot and follow me so that I was always looking into their eyes; very, very creepy and true. Watching the scene in iRobot where Will Smith goes into the factory to find rows and rows of robots "tracking" him, conjures up my experience with Wakamaru. Science fiction is one thing; reality is another. Reality leaves a far deeper impression..