Many workers from low-wage countries are eager to work inJapan. The Philippines, for example, has over 350,000 trained nurses, and has been pleading with Japan–which accepts only a token few–to let more in. Foreign pundits keep telling Japan to do itself a favor and make better use of cheap imported labor. But the consensus among Japanese is that visions of a future in which immigrant workers live harmoniously and unobtrusively inJapanare pure fancy. Making humanoid robots is clearly the simple and practical way to go.
Japancertainly has the technology. It is already the world leader in making industrial robots, which look nothing like pets or people but increasingly do much of the work in its factories.Japanis also racing far ahead of other countries in developing robots with more human features, or that can interact more easily with people. A government report released this May estimated that the market for “service robots” will reach ¥1.1 trillion ($10 billion) within a decade.
The country showed off its newest robots at a world exposition this summer in Aichi prefecture. More than 22m visitors came, 95% of them Japanese. The robots stole the show, from the nanny robot that babysits to aToyotathat plays a trumpet. AndJapan’s robots do not confine their talents to controlled environments. As they gain skills and confidence, robots such as Sony’s QRIO (pronounced “curio”) and Honda’s ASIMO are venturing to unlikely places. They have attended factory openings, greeted foreign leaders, and rung the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange. ASIMO can even take the stage to accept awards.
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