Japan Today

This robot’s got soul! Animatronic Ray Charles sittin’ on a bench in Osaka

By Rachel Tackett

Japan has made quite a name for itself in the world of high-powered technology. It’s no lie that seeing the words “Made in Japan” stamped on the back side of any camera or other electronic device gives one the immediate impression of superior quality.

Why, Japan is so advanced that even their street performers are technological geniuses. No really, imagine our surprise when we heard that a creative craftsman in Osaka developed his own life-size singing robot, the likes of which are rarely found outside of the enclosed passages of Disney’s “Small World” attraction. Brimming with intrigue, we immediately took to the streets of Osaka to find out more about this singing robot and the man who created it.

We began our search armed with only the information that the robot could be heard in front of Osaka Castle, and boy were they right. The robot’s voice rang loud and clear across the park that surrounds the castle, making it — or should I say him — quite easy to locate. The robot was built to resemble rhythm and blues musical master, Ray Charles. The likeness was quite impressive in both form and movement, but as we got closer, we could see that the “skin” was made entirely out of paper clay.

Where was the voice coming from?

While the robot (let’s call him Robo Ray) appeared to be playing the keyboard and his mouth formed the shape of the words to Ray Charles’s rendition of the Southern All Stars hit “Ellie My Love,” close inspection showed that the music was coming from neither the piano nor the robot’s mouth but from a speaker placed inside the heart of the machine.

How did the robot move?

We wondered at first if Robo Ray’s clever mouth flaps and his sensual sway at the keyboard were all programmed in to be fully automatic, but just behind the robot’s bench we spotted an older man with a controller that might have been meant for a remote control airplane, but was instead being used to control our master musician. This was the creator of Robo Ray.

Why make the robot?

It’s simple. The man likes music, but he felt that simply listening to the songs can be boring. Or, to put it in his own words, “Isn’t it more interesting to build a robot and then use it to share your favorite songs with the public?” While we can’t say that we’ve ever felt so inclined, we’re impressed! This man perfected his craft and made this musical masterpiece entirely on his own!

How long has he been letting his robot play for the public?

According to the old man, he’s been putting on outdoor shows for a full five years now, though he’s limited to the warm spring and summer months. It makes sense, since we wouldn’t want the robot to get a sore throat in winter.

How much did the robot cost?

Imagine the hundreds of millions of American dollars that go into the production of today’s action-packed blockbusters. Well, this robot cost small but significant fraction of that, coming in at less than 150,000 yen total. Planning alone took about half a year for him to complete. Actually, the robot that people can see now is Robo Ray version two and was completed in October of last year.

So what are your thoughts? Now that the rare genius of Ray Charles has passed away, would anyone like to be serenaded by the smooth jazz produced by Robo Ray?

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Chogodai King Robo Mickey & Friends Assemble! -- Students Create Robotic “Fulfillment Coat” Which Simulates Hugs from Behind -- Singing Humanoid Robot Has Cute Plump Cheeks

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Kind of creepy actually

3 ( +3 / -0 )

interesting attraction!

time to make usher... :P

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A gawd awful display! Not at all complimentary to the "Genius." Please remove it ASAP.

1 ( +2 / -2 )

I'd rather walk by Robo Ray Charles than pay for a ticket to watch an anime character sing on stage.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Looks like Swartznegger to me!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

so, can you send him to the freakin' Fukushima Dai Ichi, and have him do some actual meaningful work???

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"...his mouth formed the shape of the words..."

Really? It just looked like the mouth was moving up & down to me.

"...Robo Ray’s clever mouth flaps and his sensual sway at the keyboard..."

Seriously? This is clearly editorializing.

Question, Rachael: Why didn't you just ask the questions & let the creator of the robot answer?

I hope Rachael Tackett doesn't fancy herself a journalist, because this is very poorly written.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If I were there, I'd nick the cool Ray-bots sunnies. It's not like the thing could chase me down! You are soul, Ray Charles, you are soul...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It looks like a zombie!!!.. well, at least the zombie Ray Charles have some soul. At least the creator tried his best to make him look try to play the keyboard. Hope next stage is a real robot emulating Ray Charles.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've seen much more convincing marionettes. This thing is about as lame as they come.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That creepy thing reminds me of those mechanical puppets at Chuck E' Cheeses. Creeped me out as a kid, and I see they still can't get rid of those mechanical clicks and creeks.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Okay, Mr. Anderson.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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