Meet Edgar - first robot host at National Day Parade

Meet Edgar the robot, one of the hosts of this year's National Day Parade. His inventors say Edgar can do more than just host - he can also be programed to perform other social activities.
(From left) Dr Wong Choon Yue, Research Fellow, at NTU School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Ms Pang Wee Ching, a Research Associate with their robot Edgar who will be hosting the NDP show.
(From left) Dr Wong Choon Yue, Research Fellow, at NTU School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Ms Pang Wee Ching, a Research Associate with their robot Edgar who will be hosting the NDP show.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - With his crisp, clear voice, and the ability to talk about almost anything under the sun, Edgar seems made for the stage.

The ambitious performer has even set his sights on one of Singapore's greatest stages: the annual National Day Parade (NDP). On Aug 9 this year, his dream will come true.

Edgar will be sharing the limelight with more than 3,000 other performers during the NDP at the Marina Bay floating platform.

But as the first robot host in NDP history, Edgar, in his blue-and-white "armour", would be no problem to spot.

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Together with four human hosts - Joakim Gomez, Julie Tan, Nurul Aini and Subramaniam Narainda - the life-sized robot will psych up the crowd before the parade starts.

For one thing, the made-in-Singapore robot wants everyone to know how Singaporean he is.

During his warm-up appearances at the National Education shows on July 2 and July 8, he told the crowd: "I know all about Sang Nila Utama, and where to eat the best chicken rice - any self-respecting Singaporean can tell you that!"

Edgar has the ability to ad-lib, which means he can come up with his own responses to questions posed to him, said Edgar's maker, Dr Wong Choon Yue, 39, a research fellow at the Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

"But for the NDP, we coded specific responses so he doesn't say anything too cheeky," said Dr Wong.

Edgar was "born" in NTU three years ago, and was programmed by Dr Wong and NTU research associate Pang Wee Ching, 34, to express the wish to perform at an NDP. It was no idle wish.

"It had always been our goal to have Edgar featured on the greatest stage on the Singaporean calendar - the NDP... So we were overjoyed when we were contacted last August by the show committee," said Dr Wong. The NDP committee had come to know of Edgar through videos posted online.

It was double happiness for the couple, who were also in the midst of preparing for their wedding in October.

"After the wedding, there was a mad rush to get Edgar ready, by making him more reliable, and getting him to look more Singaporean too, by 3D-printing a Singaporean flag on his arm," said Dr Wong.

Ms Pang added: "I think it is apt to showcase a Singaporean robot during NDP. When people think of robots, people think of Japan, South Korea or the United States. But this is a chance to show that Singapore can also compete with the big boys in the area of robotics."

Colonel Tan Tiong Keat, chairman of the NDP show committee, agreed that Edgar's inclusion would be appropriate.

He said: "A lot has been spoken about the use of technology to enhance productivity, about automation and robotics, so we thought it would be a good idea to have a robot host to complement the actual host."