Despite slipping from its title as leading innovator in the field of robotics, many Japanese firms have developed robots that are able to successfully provide psychological and physical comfort to people.
And while that seems like a positive enough benefit, others question the ethical aspects of foisting cold, unemotional robots or robotics upon the elderly, fearing that people can develop an unhealthy false emotional attachment.
Perhaps one need ask a more pressing question: If not robots, then who?
The fact that robots are being tasked to look after the emotional state of human beings points a finger at the rest of society, implying that we either are too busy to provide the full-time care required, or that we simply don’t care enough to provide the necessary personal emotional care.
In Japan, the senior citizens who are now being offered robot care in its myriad forms—for physical or emotional support—have actually grown up with robots as part of their culture.
No, I’m not talking about the pick-and-place automation of automotive robotics (though that is certainly a legitimate offering), rather I am talking about Japan’s popular culture mediums that have long embraced robots as the cute and friendly face of heroism via manga (comic books) and anime (cartoons) for over 60 years.
For an in-depth look at what the world of robotics means to Japan and its role in caring for an ever-growing aged population, please watch the Financial Times video on YouTube below:
Special thanks to the Financial Times and Spot Digital Ltd. (a London, UK-based marketing agency) for providing me with use of the video.
PS: For more information on Paro the robot seal, check out a blog I wrote back in August of 2011 - HERE.
PPS: Also back in 2011, I wrote an 9-part series of blogs examining early forms of automation in Japan and its eventual evolution in to the Japanese robotics industry:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9