Wakamaru is a Japanese domestic robot made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, primarily intended to provide companionship to elderly and disabled people. The robot is yellow, 100 cm tall, and weights 30 kilograms. It has two arms and its flat, circular base has a diameter of 45 cm. The first hundred went on sale in September, 2005, for USD $14,000.
Wakamaru runs a Linux operating system on multiple microprocessors. It can connect to the Internet, and has limited speech (in both male and female voices) and speech recognition abilities. Functions include reminding the user to take medicine on time, and calling for help if it suspects something is wrong.
The robot has the potential to replace a human caretaker in Japan, where robotic technology is embraced and the graying of the population has left many young people wondering who will care for their parents.
Its 3-foot-tall frame contains an integrated cell phone that is programmed to call emergency dispatchers automatically if a problem occurs with a patient. An embedded Web camera lets doctors and family members keep an eye on the patient at all times. Speech-recognition software and a built-in dictionary provide the robot's vocabulary.
Wakamaru is so robust that he or she -- Mitsubishi can give the robot either a male or female voice -- can be programmed to remind patients to take their medicine and even call a doctor when it appears that someone is in distress.
Khoo Yuan Jin