Japan Wants to Build Robots That Talk With the Elderly

Source: Gigaom

Japan is a country where people are living longer than in other nations. To make matters worse, couples in Japan are not producing a lot of babies, which in turns creates an aging population. The question is, how does one combat such an issue?

Well, how about robots? Yes, that’s right, robots. A new report claims Japanese robotic developers are hard at work on creating a robot that can hold conversations with the elderly.

As it stands right now, some of the robots are extremely realistic, and so far, the technology is coming along nicely. In the United States, then, there are little to no work being done on such robots since researchers there are mainly focused on creating machines that are designed for replacing humans in the workplace.

Source: CNN

Let’s Give a Round of Applause to Erica

OK, so Erica is a humanoid and her primary purpose is to hold conversations with the elderly in Japan. So far, according to USA Today, she’s not that great at doing her job, but these are early days, and as such, we’re expecting a lot of improvements in the future.

“In Japan, many are living alone, and they need to have a conversation with others,” says Takashi Minato, a researcher with Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories. “The human-like robot can help support them.”

If you’re looking to purchase Erica, well, you’re out of luck because she’s not for sale. Still, Minato says if she was, the price would be somewhere around $200,000.

That’s basically a testament saying Erica is not yet ready for prime time, but with Japan being so focused on creating humanoid robots, it may not take very long before these machines are smart enough to converse with humans intelligently.

Could Humanoid Robots Work in the United States?

Jim Boerkoel, a professor of computer science at Harvey Mudd College, believes that Americans would rather adopt robots that are cute and cuddly instead of ones that look more human. If this is indeed the case, then America will likely keep its focus on consumer and business robots instead of humanoids.

“People will be more likely to go towards robots that are cute and friendly, in an animated form factor that is clearly separate from being human,” he says.

The Consumer Robots that are Accepted in America

Several companies have tried and failed to launch quality consumer robots in America, but many have found success nonetheless. If we look at Amazon and its Alexa line of smart speaker products, then it’s safe to assume the company is the most successful in the industry so far.

Google is following with similar smart speakers, and Apple recently jumped in the market with the HomePod.

Before these intelligent speakers became a thing, smart home vacuum robots were the talk of the town, and they still are.