January 30, 2009

The Future of Japanese Robots, now...

TECHNOLOGY - When will the marvel of Japanese robots finally reach the fantasy that we see in Astro Boy and other Japanese Anime cartoons? Already Japan has feeding machines for the elderly, furry therapeutic robotic seals and their own version of "RoboCop", a mech designed to patrol hallways asking for security passes.

The prize-winning My Spoon feeding robot helps older or disabled people eat with a joystick-controlled swiveling arm that shovels morsels from a plate to the person's mouth.

My Spoon is already being sold in Japan and Europe, doesn't force feed. The spoon-fitted arm stops at a preprogrammed position in front of the mouth so users can bite and swallow at their leisure.

Paro is a furry seal fitted with sensors beneath its fur and whiskers that let it respond to petting by opening and closing its eyes and moving its flippers and users claim it even develops a personality. Over 800 of the seal robots are already in use in Japanese nursing homes and in schools for autistic and handicapped children.

There is also a mammoth, automatic vacuum-cleaner-on-wheels designed by Fuji Heavy Industries. It can be programmed to use elevators and clean whole office buildings.

Then there is the Motoman factory worker robot by Yaskawa Electric Corp., which has been designed to replace humans in assembly lines.

Just in time too because Japan's rapidly aging population is facing an impending labour shortage. Low birth rates and xenophobic immigration laws mean Japan's population of 127 million is expected to plunge 30% by 2055.

The Japanese aren't just looking for workers either. They are developing robotic exoskeletons (or mechs) as the first step towards mech-powered infantry, with the exoskeleton adding hundreds of pounds to the force of the human body's muscular movements. Think Iron Man or the Mechs from Matrix II & III.

Two Japanese security firms, Tmsuk Co and Alacom Co. have even developed a Security Guard Mech. The prototype is named T-34 and are selling them to police agencies and corporations looking for a better solution to human security guards.

The T-34 moves at 10 KPH (6 MPH) and can be remotely controlled by a human at a control terminal or via a cell phone interface developed by the company with real time images, allowing them to get involved in combat situations but at a safe distance for the humans.

The T-34 also works a bit like a James Bond car and can throw a net over intruders, has complex motion sensors to detect from possible intruders. Upgraded versions come with more advanced weaponry.

See Also:
101 of the Greatest Inventions of All Time
Japanese Women Bust Out
Anorexia in Asia
Cosplay Restaurant

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