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Two Insane Fruit Robots Are Going to Duke It Out at the Tokyo Marathon

At the Tokyo Marathon, Kagome's new robot that feeds you tomatoes while you run will be competing alongside Dole's LED-laced "wearable banana." The future is weird.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US

"Wearable" technology is often lauded as the next big thing. Over the past few years, Google tried (and failed) to make its Glass technology the wave of our collectively nerdy future, Apple debuted a "smartwatch" that makes it so that you and your celly cell are literally attached at the wrist, and there's even a wearable in the works that tracks your sex intelligence. Plus, there's a whole creepy-guy's-trenchcoat-worth of devices that you can now strap on to help you maximize your workouts and runs.

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But the Japanese, who like technology in general but love robots, decided to go and take that concept a step further. Being fed data about your body is helpful, sure, but wouldn't it be even more convenient, they supposed, to create a robot that literally fed you as you run?

Nagoya-based Japanese juice company Kagome has revealed the Tomatan machine, a friendly—if not eerie—looking tomato-headed droid that sits on your shoulders while you jog, sprint, stroll, whatever. Pull a lever, and the robot's arms reach behind it and select a tomato, then bring it to your mouth for you to bite into. Supposing, of course, that eating whole, raw tomatoes while running is something that you want to do but find inconvenient to manage on your own. Watch the video below for a look at how the machine works.

Furthermore, the Tomatan can hold up to six tomatoes, if you want to go full Caprese on your 10k. Kagome's Shigenori Suzuki, who appears in the video and demonstrated the use of the Tomatan at yesterday's press conference, explains the choice of fruit by arguing that "tomatoes have lots of nutrition that combats fatigue." It is more confusing as to how wearing an 18-pound robot on your shoulders while you run would not contribute to said fatigue.

Suzuki will also be wearing the contraption on a five-kilometer run tomorrow to further showcase its abilities, and another runner from the company will be wearing a smaller, lighter version of the robot—weighing only six pounds, and featuring a timer that helps the wearer space out their tomato consumption—during Sunday's Tokyo Marathon.

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This isn't the first time Kagome has tried to shill tomatoes to the running crowd. Early last year, the company debuted tomato vending machines in notoriously vending machine-friendly Tokyo in hopes of convincing athletes to derive energy and nutrition from bags of fresh tomatoes rather than sports drinks or protein bars. But at the equivalent of almost US$3–4 per small pack of the red 'n' juicies, it wasn't exactly a steal to go full tomato.

Although tomatoes are certainly not thought of as an athletic snack in the US, they do contain high levels of vitamins A and C and are rich in alpha-lipoic acid, which helps the body convert glucose into energy. They also have high water content and contain choline, a nutrient that improves muscle movement and reduces inflammation.

Incidentally, Kagome isn't the only company looking to make fresh produce into running gear—in fact, they'll have some pretty direct competition at the Tokyo Marathon from Dole. The fruit company will have two runners wearing their "smart bananas" at the marathon, which are actual, edible bananas with built-in sensors and LED lights that scroll messages across the fruits' skin. The device tracks your heart rate, records your race time, and even tells you when you're due for a banana snack.

"This is no regular banana. It's the best companion for any marathoner. You can strap it around your wrist and run with it until you finish the race," says the promotional video Dole released this week.

dole-wearable-banana

Image via Dole

So who will reign supreme, the tomato or the banana?

We'll only know come Sunday—but the banana is probably a little easier to run with than a toddler-sized robot, well-meaning as it may be.