When Mitsubishi put its Wakamaru receptionist robot up for hire last month, it was clearly just a matter of time before the droid would actually find work. On July 11, People Staff, a major temporary staffing agency based in Nagoya, announced it has accepted 10 of the robots as dispatch workers and is ready to send them out to work at businesses and institutions in the Tokai area of central Japan.
The 1-meter (3 ft. 3 in.) tall, 30-kilogram (66 lb.) Wakamaru, who moves around on wheels and features a bright yellow shell and kooky smile, was developed in 2003 by Mitusbishi, who wanted to create a servant robot able to carry out a range of household chores. Wakamaru appeared at the World Expo in Aichi in 2005, and has since become one of Japan's most recognizable robots.
In terms of job skills, Wakamaru can recognize faces, carry on simple conversations with a vocabulary of 10,000 words, and perform simple manual tasks. More importantly for its expected job as a receptionist in offices and hospitals, Wakamaru is adept at thanking visitors for waiting and can sing songs as it shows the visitors to their destination within the building.
Wakamaru's paycheck can reach as high as 120,000 yen ($1,000) per day for short-term gigs, but the wage decreases dramatically for longer-term contracts, to as low as 3 million yen ($25,000) for one year, which is on par with a flesh-and-bone human temp worker.
A spokesperson for People Staff said, "As Japan's labor shortage expands, we would like to create an environment where humans and robots can work more closely together."
No word yet on whether People Staff has any plans to change the company name.
[Source: Sankei Web]