Museum of Curious Toys & Games: Bandai’s “God-Jesus” Robot (1984)
Hello and welcome to another view into this one-of-a-kind collection celebrating the incredible world of bizarre, funny or unusual toys & games from yesteryear. Each item featured in this assorted collection represents a questionable (or maybe inspirational) moment in the development of toys and games throughout human history.
Featured Item: Bandai’s God-Jesus Robot (a.k.a. Uranai Robo)
As we enter, as Byron Reese might say, a Fourth Age, where robots and AI may transform the very nature of humanity forever — perhaps there’s no better time than the present to look back to a robot toy from several decades ago that can’t really do much at all in comparison. That’s right: Before there was Pepper by Softbank Robotics or even Amazon Echo, there was the Uranai Robo — better known here in the US as the God-Jesus Robot.
Created by Bandai and sold in Japan in 1984, the God-Jesus Robot (or more accurately the “Fortune-Telling Robot”) was a toy that could be used as a tool for divination. Similar to the Magic 8-Ball, though also entirely different in terms of gestalt, players could ask God-Jesus Robot a question to help them find answers to some of the most perplexing questions of life. (Take my money and sign me up!)
So How Does Uranai Robo Work?
This rare robot find is a favorite among collectors. The battery-powered Uranai Robo can nod its head as well as walk backward and forward. The gears sound like they are working overtime throughout — it’s the little robot that could.
There are no “maybes” in the world of Uranai Robo — only the certainty that comes with completely arbitrary affirmations in the yay or nay direction. As you can see from the directions (below), the robot will move its head in an affirmative or naysaying direction based on the answer to your question about the future. In a world full of gray areas — what could be more assuring than a clear-cut answer either way?
After the Uranai Robo is powered on, it becomes “alert” once a user touches it. The robot moves a few steps forward and then nods its head as it appears to “hear” your question. The robot then “thinks” about the question-at hand and this is indicated by its blinking eyes. The robot thinks realllly hard.
Once an answer is determined, the robot will nod to indicate the answer to the question is “yes” or shake its head to answer “no.” The robot will move backwards again to its original position after this question is answered. Tapping the robot once more will begin the fortune-telling process all over again. At this point, we need to ask: who needs Alexa when you have a fortune-telling robot like this? Imagine all of the fun you can have before the batteries run out.
In a lot of ways, though much more functional, Anki’s Cozmo robot did remind me of Uranai Robo — perhaps because of it’s size or the quirky personality that Cozmo (admittedly much more sophisticated in terms of features and functionality) somehow embodies. However, with Anki shutting down after receiving millions in investment (note to self: a future Medium post on where did all of that money go?), Cozmo may ultimately head the way of Uranai Robo, part of the pantheon of robots of curious and forgotten lore although it’s still available.
Here’s the best video I could find that discusses all of the “amazing” features of Uranai Robo — and the hosts even put the robot’s fortune-telling prowess to the test. Just about everything you ever wanted to know about how Uranai Robo works is covered in this video — and by that I mean it’s over an hour-and-a-half in length.
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