Monday, May 17, 2010

Robot Marries Couple

I ran across this article today thanks to my friend Lee Gimenez on Facebook (thanks, Lee!). Apparently a Japanese couple has been married by a robot called the iFairy, which was designed to give museum tours and just needed a bit of new software to perform this new function. It's complete with video...

Of course, from a pragmatics and speech acts point of view this is rather fascinating. I had an earlier post about weddings and the speech acts associated with them, but one of the critical ingredients here is that the speech acts that make the marriage real have to be performed by an authorized person - usually a priest or someone representing the laws of the state.

Now, it appears this couple worked for the same company where robots were being designed, so there's a certain logic to their decision. Couples often tailor their weddings to fit their own needs, whether those be of one religion or another (or more than one - I've been to a Jewish Buddhist wedding before), or whether the trappings be those of a historical period, a garden fantasy setting or a science fictional world. On the other hand, the role of the celebrant is right at the center of what goes on at a wedding: the uttering of words that create a real change in reality for the couple being married. I can only assume that in this case, the people involved were willing to approve the robot as an authorized celebrant - for otherwise, the marriage would be considered invalid.

That's an interesting twist on the cultural significance of marriage!