Over the weekend, while on the way to attend a friend’s wedding at Mandarin Oriental hotel, we came across 3 long tables, each filled with cute little robots at Marina Square atrium. From a distance, the robots look a little like AIBO, an iconic robotic dog designed by SONY, but close up, we realised that they were actually Robi, a popular DIY robot that launched in Japan in 2012 and is now available for sale in Singapore.
By this time, we were deliberating whether to hang on for the show and risk being late for the wedding or just be a “kaypoh” (be a busybody) and quickly check it out. Being a good guest, we opted for the latter of course. So from the little time we got with the staff on the ground, we gathered that the Singapore version of Robi is bilingual – it speaks English and Mandarin – and can even utter some Singlish phrases. We got a glimpse of what the robot can do at the Marina Square demonstration as well. Robi, which is 34cm in height and weighs 1kg, was asked “What’s your name?” To which the robot simply replied “Just call me Robi, lah!”
After some research online, we found that Robi not only can sing and dance, it can greet you, help switch on household appliances like the TV, as well as express emotion through the colour of its eyes. When cooking, you can also use Robi as a timer.
Robi is the brain child of Professor Tomotaka Takahashi from the University of Tokyo who created the boy-looking robot for DeAgostini. The fully assembled Robi comes with cutting-edge robotics technology from Japan, including a microcontroller that acts as its brain, 20 servo motors for movements and even an built-in IR emitter in its forehead that functions as a universal remote. A 90 minutes charge will allow Robi to operate for 30 minutes and when its low on power, it will let you know that it’s “hungry”.
Part of the reason we were attracted to the demonstration event was also the S$9.90 price on one of the poster. We soon realised that for S$9.90, what you get is a promo issue of Robi (the usual price is S$28.90 per issue). In order to fully assemble the robot, you need to purchase as many as 70 weekly issues which will cost you roughly S$2,000.