Robi the robot can now speak Singlish

At the launch of the Singapore version of Robi at Marina Square yesterday, a hundred of the robots performed a short dance routine. The robot is hugely popular because it can walk and move fluidly and has an endearing personality.
At the launch of the Singapore version of Robi at Marina Square yesterday, a hundred of the robots performed a short dance routine. The robot is hugely popular because it can walk and move fluidly and has an endearing personality. ST PHOTO: DANIEL NEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

S'pore version of popular creation will come in parts with purchase of weekly magazine

The Singapore version of Robi, a wildly popular robot which has sold more than 120,000 units worldwide, understands not only English and Mandarin, but also Singlish.

In a demonstration at its launch here yesterday at Marina Square, Robi, which is 34cm tall and weighs 1kg, was asked: "What's your name?" The robot replied: "Just call me Robi, lah!"

Robi's fluency in Singlish attracted much attention from passers-by yesterday. But anyone who wishes to own a Robi will have to be patient.

The robot will not be sold as a whole, but in parts that come weekly with the purchase of Robi Weekly Magazine, which costs $28.90 per issue.

The public can now purchase the first issue, available at retailers, such as 7-Eleven and Popular, and also from the Robi website.

It takes 70 weeks to receive all the parts, at a total cost of about $2,000.

The parts are easily assembled, requiring only a screwdriver.

Mr Aibon Alarin, 35, a property specialist, said: "It's really cool and interactive; I really want to buy one. If I am bored at home, I can talk to it."

Robi, a boy-type robot, was designed by Associate Professor Tomotaka Takahashi from the University of Tokyo, who has previously created other humanoid robots.

The inspiration for Robi lies in Prof Takahashi's childhood love of Astro Boy, a Japanese manga series about a humanoid robot.

Prof Takahashi said: "As a companion robot, I want it to have a close relationship with its owner, so I have included Singlish as it is a language used here in Singapore."

While only a prototype was shown at the launch, the final product will be able to respond to a vocabulary of more than 250 phrases.

Besides having an endearing personality and the ability to walk and move fluidly, Robi can use his feet to polish a tabletop, or count down a specified number of minutes to tell you when the time is up.

He can also dance, sing, kick a ball and wave a flag.

At the launch, Robi also demonstrated push-ups. A hundred of the Robi robots also performed a short dance routine.

Mr James Lee, 35, an educator, was given the opportunity to assemble the full robot with his son.

"We had a really good time putting it together and I could explain to my son the different parts of the robot," he said.

The robot is targeted at consumers of all ages.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Robi the robot can now speak Singlish'. Print Edition | Subscribe