Charlie, the future singing and talking robot from Yamaha (yes, a manufacturer of motorcycles and musical instruments) can now be pre-ordered. This decision comes after a long period of monitoring and testing over the past few months since its launch last year.
So far we could only find it on Yamaha.co.jp for pre-order, but we hope it will soon be available on proxies for Japanese buyers.
Japan’s (very) famous obsession with robot satellites
Time and again, and in some products, it is stated that Japan has always had a particular fascination with cute robot companions in general. Many attribute this phenomenon to the traditional animistic culture of the country, namely the idea that spirits or gods live in almost every object in this world. Or the idea that Japanese people tend to be automatically divided into groups, with the robot acting as an intermediate layer that transcends the physical limits of these social constraints.
But usually these items are designed to be so cute that they can serve as replacement pets. They are slightly more intelligent than their biological counterparts and require no maintenance.
For example, there is NAO, an interactive robot from the early 2000s that is programmed to generate answers based on the context of the user’s words. There’s Toyota’s Kirobo (Mini), which is about the same, but with slightly more advanced algorithms and the added features of a tracking record to keep track of events. Then there’s that weird Lovot robot that was unveiled at CES 2019 last year, and it’s not exactly cooperating with a smart word change. On the contrary, he is cute when the user wants to cuddle him like a pet.
Now that we’ve wasted a few paragraphs on context, let’s imagine what Yamaha has done in the Robot Cutters metagame, INTERCTUALLY.
Charlie: Stress reduction strategy innotes
Charlie was first unveiled by Yamaha in October 2020 with a prototype to introduce the concept to the public. As you can see in the product demo, he works in the same way as most of the cute interactive robots that have been developed before, but he adds a melodic touch to every statement he makes.
It’s important to note that while this vocaloid/physical voice chatbot sounds like it sings well, it’s actually programmed to be sonically versatile. That is, she changes the rhythm and tempo, even the theme of her musical word, depending on the context of what she is saying. He may make a statement of pride in a triumphant and optimistic tone, while he may become melodramatic when dealing with something more serious.
Combine that with modern developments in machine learning and voice-activated chatbots in general, and you get an adorable conceptual robot that can sing every time to match the theme. At the very least, the interaction with Dear Charlie should give you the sudden feeling of being in a musical room.
As a de-stressing concept, this design is actually quite compelling. We can definitely imagine you laughing every time you hear his super dramatic word choices.
Outdoor physics A sequel for the heart and soul?
Yamaha conducted a brief study of young women aged 20-30+ before conducting the evaluation tests. It was found that at least 84% of the unregistered sample had these questions in mind:
- Tension rises linearly as concerns increase.
- Physical stress is never as strong as mental stress
- After work, you want something to soothe your cluttered and tired mind…..
Using this basic information, the development team decided… …to develop a singing robot. With over 30 variations in his type of melody and song, one would hope that he could synchronize his learning abilities well enough to eventually better assess what needs to be said to address any of these three topics.
Therefore, the prototype was tested for about three weeks in December 2020 to see if any of the features were effective enough to achieve the objectives. Overall, about 68% of respondents said they had achieved their goals as a singing robot. Some 24% agreed that some objectives had been achieved, while 8% said that nothing special had been done for them.
Overall, about 92% of respondents were positive about Charlie as a conceptual product.
Of the respondents who did end up liking the product, 72% said they absolutely loved Charlie, 20% had a somewhat positive but more neutral opinion of the product, while 8% didn’t like Charlie at all.
Maybe the 8% in both graphs represents exactly the same people who don’t like pretty robots.
After work robot buddy Music
In addition to his melodic conversational spirit, Charlie also has some more interactive moments, such as vocal synchronization of arm and leg movements, and various gestures on I’m Focused on You. Well, it certainly improves his design for late night stress relief. Charlie will therefore be more interested in the demographic group most represented in the test: young people with busy (and therefore potentially stressful) schedules. This is in contrast to most other voice robots, which are offered by entire families or retired seniors.
As mentioned earlier, pre-orders for Charlie’s devices are now being taken. The expected release date for the product (at least in Japan) is the 13th. In May of this year. The MSRP price is just under 25,000 yen (about 230 USD), with an additional 500 yen (4.5 USD) per month for various upgrades and maintenance after the first month of use.
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