For many years, Japan has led the world in attempts to build a robot which looks and acts like a human being. Something with arms and legs and a reasonably convincing face and mouth. As long ago as the 1970s, they began showing off their designs at a global tech meetings and managed to spread confusion among the European and North American delegates alike. While the concept of an android servant was both recognisable and attractive, it was still the stuff of science fiction. Basically, we were miles away from being able to build one.
Then, during the 1980s, it was widely rumoured that Japan would soon replace America as the world’s largest economy. Japanese engineers were doing so well that it was hard to see the future in any other terms. This is an event that never happened. Reports of a future in which Japan became the world’s number one economy were greatly exaggerated. Not only do they now suffer from a rapidly ageing population but they have fallen behind in the race to increase work efficiency.
A quarter of the Japanese population is over the age of 65 and there is now massive investment in devices that would help staff in a hospital or elderly care homes perform such basic tasks as transferring a patient to the shower and back again. For a human, this sort of work is fairly easy but for a machine, the manual dexterity required to move an invalid without causing harm is still impossible. In 2020, 47 per cent of all robots were manufactured in Japan so for this nation, more than any other, automating care is surely a straightforward task?
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