Wakamaru is a model of robot made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries that was originally intended to be a domestic helper for the elderly. It was originally released in 2005, and sold to a limited number of private households with great fanfare... unfortunately, it was found that Wakamaru was not actually able to handle a sufficient range of needs to make it worth the purchase price (the equivalent of USD $14,000). However, it did have a number of features that made it interesting, and a number of companies showed interest in using it as a receptionist or as part of their advertising. Currently, Wakamaru is available to be rented out to interested companies, but is not available for sale or rental to private homes, or to companies outside of Japan.

Wakamaru was originally designed to provide companionship, to act as a calendar and information portal (it could remind you to take your medications and could connect to the internet for weather reports and the like), and to call for help if it suspected that something was wrong. It could carry on a conversation (and came programmed with male and female voices), and was designed to be cute and reassuring (although still, certainly, very robotic). It was also designed to be very low maintenance, and is able to recharge itself and avoid furniture in its path -- although these features were not new in the field of robotics at the time of Wakamaru's release.

It is one meter tall with a humanoid torso and a lower half that looks somewhat like skirt, hiding its wheels. It is bright yellow (because this "attracts attention, is invigorating, and has strong connotations with happiness."), and weighs in at 30 kilograms. Its face is minimalist and somewhat anime-ish, consisting of large black eyes, a mouth suggested by a ridge between the upper and lower face plates, and two distinct 'eye-brows'. It has no ears, nose, or chin, but does indeed look like a very cute helper robot. You can see pictures and video at Wakamaru's website.

Wakamaru is still under development, and may someday return to domestic work, although there are no immediate plans. Mitsubishi is working to improve its voice recognition and conversational capabilities, and have added a feature where it looks conversational partners in the eyes. While they continue to work to make it more relatable there are no plans to make it more humanoid.

Wakamaru is named after the famed 12th century samurai warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune; Yoshitsune's childhood nickname was Wakamaru, and Yoshitsune's eyebrows were apparently quite distinctive in much the same way as Wakamaru's are.

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