MacroScope

APEC’s robots stealing the show

robot

A guide at the “Japanese Experience” exhibition talks to Miim, the Karaoke pal robot, on the sidelines of the APEC meetings in Yokohama, Japan on Nov. 10. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

    Miim is one of the more popular delegates at the APEC meetings in Yokohama Japan. She sings. She dances. She tosses her shoulder length hair. She may not be able to spout an alphabet soup of APEC acronyms like the other Asia-Pacific delegates. But she’s still pretty lively. For a robot.

    This week’s meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have been earnest and most comprehensive . Foreign and trade ministers issued a 20-page statement about all the things they talked about — a giant free trade zone, protectionism, the Doha round, easing restrictions on businesses, simplifying customs procedures, promoting green industries, cooperating on health and security, you name it. They also have been, and pardon my French here, excruciatingly dull. So far, the meetings and their stupefying statements have been a testimonial to Japan’s skill at stating the ambiguous. Call it the opaque meetings. Journalists from around the Pacific rim have been desperately trying to find news as the 21 APEC leaders gather for their annual pow-wow this weekend.

     The annual “silly shirts”  photo shoot, in which leaders don native attire for the class picture of their summit is usually good news fodder, but is going to be a  big let-down this year. The leaders are merely being asked to show up wearing “smart casual” for the photo shoot on Saturday night, before they head inside for a Kabuki show.

   Which brings us back to Miim, the karaoke robot. She, er it, is one of 130 exhibits on display at  “Japan Experience”, a government-sponsored exhibition in  the Pacific Yokohama convention center where the APEC meetings are taking place. The exhibit also features “personal mobility vehicles”,  a cyborg suit named HAL that enables the wearer to lift really heavy stuff and perform heroically in disaster relief, a talking delivery robot, cute robotic seal pets for use in pediatric therapy, and much other cool stuff . 

APEC’S always in fashion

CHILEOne of the most closely guarded secrets at the APEC summit in Japan’s port city of Yokohama this weekend is not what the Asia-Pacific leaders might say about currencies and global imbalances. No, that’s all going to be thrashed out at the G20 meeting Thursday and Friday in Seoul. The big topic of speculation here at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center is what the leaders will wear when they gather for the annual class photo that concludes the meetings.

U.S. President George W. Bush (L) and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin wear Chilean ponchos at APEC meeting  in Santiago in 2004. REUTERS

The last time Japan hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit was 1995 in Osaka. There the leaders, apparently trying to depict the Japan Salaryman look, came out in business suits. Nobody remembers much about that APEC meeting, except that it took place in the magnificent, gold-embellished Osaka Castle.