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Robotics Japan

Japan's Elderly Nix Robot Helpers 200

Posted by Soulskill
from the sowing-seeds-of-distrust-for-the-inevitable-uprising dept.
SteeldrivingJon writes with this quote from a story at the BBC: "In Japan, robots are friendly helpers, not Terminators. So when they join the workforce, as they do often in factories, they are sometimes welcomed on their first day with Shinto religious ceremonies. But whether the sick and elderly will be as welcoming to robot-like tech in their homes is a question that now vexes a Japanese care industry that is struggling with a massive manpower shortage. Automated help in the home and hospitals, believe some, could be the answer. A rapidly aging first world is also paying close attention to Japan's dalliance with automated care. ... The country's biggest robot maker, Tmsuk, created a life-like one-meter tall robot six years ago, but has struggled to find interested clients. Costing a cool $100,000 a piece, a rental program was scrapped recently because of 'failing to meet demands of consumers' and putting off patients at hospitals. 'We want humans caring for us, not machines,' was one response."
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Japan's Elderly Nix Robot Helpers

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  • Machineists. Believers in Carbon Superiority.

    • What could go wrong? go wrong?
      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        What could go wrong? go wrong?

        Rôjin Z?

        "No one messes with the Ministry of Public Welfare!"

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Probably less than with humans. I heard that as malfunctioning as they may be, no robots has ever reacted to an incentive to break its orders.
    • by camperslo (704715)

      It's not surprising that the elderly want (human) companionship as much as a helper. Vendors would have more luck targeting sports fans and others that don't want to leave the sofa and t.v. long enough to get food or beer.

      I guess the next generation would address yet another "need". Will children have nightmares of being chased around by a robo-toilet with arms?

      Prepare for a future teabagger revolt over tax dollars funding robo-toilet-slaves for obese sports fans. Maybe if the robot is also a home securi

  • Xenophobia... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by babymac (312364) <ph33d@charteFORTRANr.net minus language> on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:22PM (#35105494) Homepage
    Well, if you want humans to care for you, Japan, you just might have to accept people who don't speak or look Japanese. Get over your completely homogeneous society already!
    • by TheLink (130905) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:27PM (#35105558) Journal
      Nah that's not the problem.

      They just need to consume more fries and cola (and keep away from that grilled fish and green tea). Then they'd have fewer elderly :).

      Surprisingly they smoke quite a lot and they're still not dropping dead quite fast enough for their economy.
      • by camperslo (704715)

        NHK has been running a series on the shifting demographics of Japan. The percentage of the population that is retired compared to that of working age has been rising. It leads to a shortage of workers (at least with the right skills), and fewer resources to help those that are retired. The problem is one that other countries including the U.S. need to look at also.

        Using robots is very clever, but besides them not being a good substitute for human companionship, they're still way too expensive for consume

    • They might have to accept people that don't look Japanese, but speak? Seriously? I don't think it's too much to ask for the people caring for your elderly to be able to communicate with them without calling in the floor translator. I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to have to pantomime out what you need from the people who are being paid to care for you.

      • by God'sDuck (837829)

        They might have to accept people that don't look Japanese, but speak? Seriously? I don't think it's too much to ask for the people caring for your elderly to be able to communicate with them without calling in the floor translator. I can't imagine how frustrating it would be to have to pantomime out what you need from the people who are being paid to care for you.

        Yeah, you'd want to speak the language before being promoted to direct patient care. But you can work to learn the language while doing the other 90% of the work -- cleaning toilets, doing laundry, delivering laundry, cooking, doing dishes, being the second set of hands for any patient care, changing light bulbs, driving the delivery vehicles, building the next nursing home...

        • by Nadaka (224565)

          <humor>Exactly, the solution to this problem is not robots, its Mexicans. </humor>

          • by 517714 (762276)

            </humor>Exactly, the solution to this problem is not robots, its Mexicans. <humor>

            Fixed that for you!

      • Re:Xenophobia... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DrgnDancer (137700) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:56PM (#35105806) Homepage

        Their problem is quickly becoming one of choosing a poison. The elderly vs middle aged vs young adults vs children gap in Japan is approaching critical. Most of the industrialized world is experiencing problems with an aging populace: the problem is less pronounced but existent in the US, noticeable in a lot of Europe, getting serious in other parts of Europe, and nearing critical in Japan. If the Japanese elderly don't want to cared for by robots, and they don't want to be cared for by non-Japanese (or non-Japanese speakers, let's face it Japanese is neither a commonly learned nor easy to learn second language) their remaining choices are getting thin.

        It's simple math. If there aren't enough young people to care for the old people you either need to import more young people or find another solution. What that solution is I don't know, but robots were at least a legit attempt.

        • It's simple math. If there aren't enough young people to care for the old people you either need to import more young people or find another solution. What that solution is I don't know, but robots were at least a legit attempt.

          Soylent Green.

        • by maugle (1369813)

          Their problem is quickly becoming one of choosing a poison.
          ...
          If there aren't enough young people to care for the old people you either need to import more young people or find another solution. What that solution is I don't know...

          Y'know, I think you may have stumbled upon the solution already...

      • Re:Xenophobia... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:15PM (#35105974) Homepage

        It's important for workers to speak the local language not just to make things easier for their employers, but also so that they are aware of their rights.

        When I moved to Finland a few years back, I initially despaired that even lowly jobs required a decent knowledge of Finnish, but when I reached relative proficiency in the language and started working in blue-collar part-time work to put myself through grad school, I was happy that I could understand the rights gained for me and my colleagues in collective bargaining between the union and my employer (every worker has these rights, even if they aren't a union member).

        But an immigrant who doesn't speak the local language can be exploited mercilessly by his employers.

    • There is xenophobia and chauvinism in Japan, yes, but considering their density, I think they're right to be skeptical of immigration as a response to this need. Japan is a very crowded country.

      There is, despite the "graying of Japan", an ongoing recession and widespread youth unemployment. What is needed is the creation of frameworks to produce jobs caring for the elderly. That's not an easy problem to solve.

    • by EdIII (1114411)

      It's not about a homogeneous society. They can only choose from people already on the island, and can't import more. Japan's population density is amongst the highest in the world.

      A robot is a slight improvement only because it would require less space than a normal person. Meaning, you could put it in a closet when not using it. Of course, even closets in Japan are at premium in some places.

    • The people complaining about not enough young people are the same ones who didn't produce enough offspring. They're having a hard time finding mates due to their unrealistic expectations. They might want to relax the rules for more immigrant spouses from other countries. Yes that dilutes their Japanese gene pool, but it's better than going to zero at the rate they're headed.
  • Maybe they don't have Old Glory Robot Insurance [hulu.com].
  • Don't like new technology!? Wow, who would've thought. Except for everyone, ever. Duh.
    • by sznupi (719324)
      The obvious thing to do is put robots in nurseries, daycare centers, kindergartens, primary school, etc. (with their staff going to elderly care)
  • At something like $1000/unit, I bet these people would be singing a different tune.

    • by Chapter80 (926879) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:38PM (#35105644)

      At something like $1000/unit, I bet these people would be singing a different tune.

      I dunno. I couldn't get my 78 year old Dad to use a FREE Roomba Robot Vacuum Cleaner or a FREE Tom Tom GPS. But he has 5 AOL accounts.

      Old people and technology don't mix.

      • by mysidia (191772)

        I dunno. I couldn't get my 78 year old Dad to use a FREE Roomba Robot Vacuum Cleaner or a FREE Tom Tom GPS. But he has 5 AOL accounts.

        Someone bought the Roomba and GPS for him, so he doesn't appreciate their value.

        AOL accounts are worthless, so their value is easy to appreciate

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "Old people and technology don't mix."

        Older GENERATIONS and technology don't mix, and that problem will solve itself.

  • 1. many countries complain about the downside of immigration. but japan is one of the few countries that actually polices it obsessively, such that there is very little, and what little of it that there is, is strictly temporary and vigorously policed. as such, japan has a greying population and has to build robots, because they fear koreans or chinese or filipinos will somehow destroy their country. nonsense. there's nothing wrong with controlled immigration, but the japanese have a very weird hang up about it. still, considering their racial hang ups, you have to wonder what bothers the elderly more: a nonjapanese nurse or a robot?

    2. finally, there's this story:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/asia/28generation.html [nytimes.com]

    japan is a "grey democracy," a gerokelptocracy (made up word): the elderly hoarde the power in corporations and in society's rules such that the young can't get a foothold. young workers are underpaid and overworked in companies purposefully to support the perks for older dead wood in the company. such that many young japanese now just want to leave the country. this of course exacerbates japan's serious problem of a top heavy age distribution: who is going to pay for the care of all of the older japanese?

    so robots caring for the elderly might be a funny tech article, and us techies might think of the japanese trying to get robots in all these domestic situations as laudable. but its actually the sign of a social sickness. the whole subject matter really speaks of some very serious social problems japan has, that are only going to get worse, unless japan makes some difficult choices, and soon

    • the elderly hoarde the power in corporations and in society's rules such that the young can't get a foothold. young workers are underpaid and overworked in companies purposefully to support the perks for older dead wood in the company.

      Sounds similar enough to the United States. Here, the unemployment rate for age group 20-24 is more than twice that of the 50-54 year old crowd.(http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea13.htm) Even after they find jobs, they'll make far less money (adjusted for inflation) than their older counterparts made at the same age. Almost nobody in the younger group will ever have a job that offers a pension.

      Things are chugging along well enough for most people here, but as the trend continues this will be a become a big problem and the legitimacy of the people who are pulling the levers will continue to decline.

      • absolutely true. but while this is a serious problem in the usa (and other industrialized countries), in japan, it is THE defining social problem of this era. the "gerokleptocracy" is exacerbated in japan by a lack of immigration. the usa complains about mexican immigration and europe complains about muslim immigration, but in japan, the problem is no nurses for a top heavy society age-wise. it puts some perspective on american and european complaints about immigration

        if as a society you have fewer children and you live longer, you are going to have serious financial problems caring for your older generations. immigration is one way to ameliorate the problem, as japan better learn, and soon

        • Well, in Europe that are complaining about immigration are the ones which have decent fertility rates. (e.g. Britain, France, Germany; Italy is exception) While in Eastern-Europe the fertility is around 1.3 and people are pretty neutral towards immigration, but nobody wants to come anyway, because of lower wages.

          • by sznupi (719324)
            Well actually, Russia (and I guess Ukraine, too) has not insignificant immigration - mostly from the rest of CIS.Still "follow the money" of course.
      • by jdgeorge (18767)

        the elderly hoarde the power in corporations and in society's rules such that the young can't get a foothold. young workers are underpaid and overworked in companies purposefully to support the perks for older dead wood in the company.

        Sounds similar enough to the United States. Here, the unemployment rate for age group 20-24 is more than twice that of the 50-54 year old crowd.(http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea13.htm) Even after they find jobs, they'll make far less money (adjusted for inflation) than their older counterparts made at the same age. Almost nobody in the younger group will ever have a job that offers a pension.

        Mmmm... Almost nobody in the US today who has a non-union job has a pension. It's all 401Ks and IRAs.

        Things are chugging along well enough for most people here, but as the trend continues this will be a become a big problem

        Yes.

        and the legitimacy of the people who are pulling the levers will continue to decline.

        Huh? In the US, the lever pullers are elected. Love them or hate them, they are just as legitimate as the citizens who vote for them.

        • by BZ (40346) on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:18PM (#35105996)

          > In the US, the lever pullers are elected.

          No, they're not. Figureheads are elected. The lever pullers are for the most part the career bureaucrats and the lobbyists.

          The last time we had an elected official seriously trying to change how the bureaucracy worked his name was Joe McCarthy. No one particularly enjoyed that, so no one has tried since.

          • the smearmongering communist witch hunter?

            please don't tell me you hold this man up as an example of anything except as a very dangerous demagogue

            of course the corporate corruption of our democracy needs to be changed. but it will be a cold day in hell before you convince anyone joe mccarthy is an example of anything except an asshole

            although, it is an interesting sign to me that his name should come up again. we are currently suffering a political movement in this country that doubts the president was born

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by BZ (40346)

              > the smearmongering communist witch hunter?

              Yep. That guy.

              > a very dangerous demagogue

              Yes, indeed. Though at this point you rather have to be to get elected. I mean... Our current president sure did the whole "arousing the emotions and passions" thing that my dictionary uses as the definition of a demagogue, mostly about Change. Our previous president, same thing about an Axis of Evil.

              > joe mccarthy is an example of anything except an asshole

              Being an asshole is not mutually incompatible with b

              • yes, small government, cut the dead wood

                but you still insist on talking about joe mccarthy in a positive light. i don't understand this in the least. hitler built the autobahn but i'm not going to laud him for civil engineering accomplishments. by the same token, you're not being responsible if you continue to talk about senator joe mccarthy as anything but a dangerous vile figure. he destroyed careers and lives because they "associated" with communists, whatever that means. he used fear and hysteria. this

                • by BZ (40346)

                  > yes, small government, cut the dead wood

                  Uh... Did I say anything like that?

                  I'm so far pointing out a problem (or more precisely, a mismatch between how the US government actually works and what people are taught in civics class and like to believe). I'm completely at a loss as to plausible solutions, assuming it's even desirable to solve it. Again, we've had a spoils system before and it wasn't pretty. And if the goal is a government that's responsive to the electorate (is that the goal?) then it's

                  • by sznupi (719324)

                    a mismatch between how the US government actually works and what people are taught in civics class and like to believe

                    This is basically what I was talking about nearby, BTW - only I tend to view it broader than "government", and "like to believe" as not confined to civics classes / etc.

                  • "Just one aspect of a person's actions taints everything else about them in your mind? "

                    uh... YES!

                    you're fucking insane. really you are

                    see this guy?:

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Reiser [wikipedia.org]

                    he made a great file system. he's also a MURDERING SCUMBAG. guess what? HIS STATUS AS MURDERING SCUMBAG OBLITERATES EVERYTHING ELSE HE DID

                    welcome to reality

                    • by BZ (40346)

                      Uh... I'm sorry, but it's you who're insane. Reiser's code did not disappear into the void. If you want to use it, you can. Apparently you don't want to; that's clearly your choice. Of course his filesystem is less desirable to use due to lack of an active maintainer and the unsavory associations, but "obliterated"?

                      Do you apply this to everyone? Let me try some examples of this reasoning.

                      Napoleon Bonaparte was a power-hungry mass-murderer (which he was, when you think about it, especially the campaign

                • by sznupi (719324)
                  Stalin was a monster. Unquestionably.

                  But what is wrong with pointing out a historical fact that, during his reign, life expectancy in the area of Soviet Union increased dramatically? (that's despite all the victims!) Generally, bringing a very backwards country up to the status of a superpower.

                  Or another irony of history: yes, strong censorship. But also the first largely literate generation.
                  • see this guy?:

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Reiser [wikipedia.org]

                    he made a great file system. he's also a MURDERING SCUMBAG. guess what? HIS STATUS AS MURDERING SCUMBAG OBLITERATES EVERYTHING ELSE HE DID

                    welcome to reality, get used to it

                    • by sznupi (719324)
                      So you wish for falsification of history, got it.

                      Hm, who else did that... Maybe a bit of book burning won't harm, too. Can't know that "insane" history!
                    • what are you babbling about?

                      if you commit a heinous crime, this pretty much outshines any positive contributions you made. what is the problem you have with this basic concept of the reality of the world you live in?

                    • by sznupi (719324)
                      How you are unable to grasp me considering somebody an unquestionable monster without the need of all actions of said individual rewritten in history books as monstrous, how you are unable to approach it similarly - that's a problem with you, not the reality.

                      It's uncannily similar to methods of people you supposedly condemn, BTW.
                    • what the fuck are you babbling about?

                      rewritten? who is talking about rewriting anything? i said it 2x, now for a third time, maybe you will finally understand: if you commit a heinous crime, this pretty much outshines any positive contributions you made

                      do you understand?

                      that's what i am saying. stop putting words in my mouth

            • ""have you sir ever associated with any member of the communist party." lol old joe! yes, it makes sense now. bringing back 1950s style fear and hysteria. learning from the best, i guess. thanks, right wing assholes"

              I, as a citizen of a post-communits country, think that most of McCarthy's actions were actually needed to counter communism.

              • by sznupi (719324)
                I, as a citizen of a post-communist country, think they were useless witch hunt show (useless as far as their stated goal went at least; feeding Red Scare hysteria could be seen as a goal in itself)

                They didn't even really root much of any spies.
              • so in other words, you endorse stasi style rule by fear... in order to get rid of the stasi?

                you're a moron, you know that?

          • by sznupi (719324)
            It's not something self-contained though; while not exactly elected, it gets perpetrated by society. "It's not corruption if I can do it"
            • by BZ (40346)

              Who said anything about corruption?

              I'm not talking about corruption. I'm talking about the fact that the bureaucracy has its own goals (not even necessarily consciously) which have little to do with those of the elected officials nominally in charge of it, much less those of the electorate, and that there's not much that elected officials can do about it.

              • by sznupi (719324)
                Of course - I just used this saying as a shortcut for, it turns out, partially disagreeing that the bureaucracy has little to do with the electorate (maybe not stated goals, sure ... but they are not so relevant in the first place IMHO)

                From where those people and their values come from? System of governance is also a reflection of society.
                • by BZ (40346)

                  > From where those people and their values come from?

                  From certain demographics within the electorate. It's very much not a representative sample in terms of things like education, political leanings, income, personality (note that some of these things correlate with each other, though).

                  It would be _very_ odd if it were, honestly.

                  Also, US society is highly nonhomogeneous in terms of values. The bureaucracy is much less so. Again, it would be odd if that were not the case.

                  I'll agree that a system of gov

                  • by sznupi (719324)
                    It's really not so simple IMHO (that would be suspiciously close to "us" vs. "them"...); it's relatively hard to find somebody (out of random selection) who would refuse perks, if given the chance.

                    Or, look at other areas: for example a family depending on the income of somebody in the military, and extended family of that one ... sure, many of them might even realize the BS of "9/11 & Iraq" ... but the military member of question is of course a distinguished, honorable man.
                    Or family of some enginee
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:46PM (#35105728) Homepage

      so robots caring for the elderly might be a funny tech article, and us techies might think of the japanese trying to get robots in all these domestic situations as laudable. but its actually the sign of a social sickness. the whole subject matter really speaks of some very serious social problems japan has, that are only going to get worse, unless japan makes some difficult choices, and soon

      Only subtly different issues between the Japanese and say, the US. We both have an aging demographic. Given the entitlements both countries (and a host of others, I'm not sure anyone really has the answer) give to the elderly - and given the costs involved in taking care of the aged, we're both looking for some hurt. You can see this at any nursing home in the US. Virtually all of the careworkers are immigrants working at unsustainably low wage levels. A care attendant is never going to make a terribly healthy wage. It's above minimum wage to be sure, but there is very little room for advancement and it's essentially a physical job. As you get older, say in your late 50's or 60's it gets harder to lift and move the sedentary whales in your care.

      Much has been made about how this 'service industry' is going to be the economic lifeline since we've trashed everything below Stock Market manipulator and politician, but it doesn't really work for most folks.

      To put it into a more historical (as opposed to an hysterical) context - in the past (pre Medicare / Medicaid in the US), the elderly often died in poverty and it's attendant misery. You got sick and bam, you dead. Now, we take care of hugely complex chronically ill patients for decades in Medicaid / Medicare funded nursing homes. Funding for Medicaid nursing home patients is typically 30 - 50% of a state's Medicaid budget (Medicaid for those of an un USasian persuasion is a jointly state and Federal funded healthcare system for indigent / poor people. It has turned into a middle class nursing home entitlement since nobody, but nobody can afford nursing home care otherwise). In the upcoming years as budgets get stretched further, expect to see this issue played out in the US. We have a couple of options - continue funding nursing homes like we have, to the short term detriment of everyone else or change the social contract some how so we don't aggressively treat the elderly or more likely, just muddle on and make up everything as we go.

      And robots aren't going to help a bunch.

      • >>>move the sedentary whales in your care.

        If I had to care for a heavy person, I'd put them on a mandatory diet until they dropped to a reasonable level (like 120-140 pounds) that I could lift. IN fact - at that point most people would probably be able to lift themselves and not need so much help (other than balance-assistance).

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      There's no racism like Asian racism
    • The elderly Japanese have the deepest pockets on earth. Japan has the highest savings of almost any country, and most Japanese, particularly elderly, are frugal. Did I mention they are very self-sufficient, grounded, and family oriented, too. Compared to nomadic Americans who retire as strangers to their communities, the elderly Japanese look secure. Of course, that is changing, and there is no telling what will happen when their young grow old and poor. Uh, I guess there is inheritance. Then maybe th
      • by sznupi (719324)
        Isn't that how their presently dominating social group arrived on the islands, anyway?
  • don't make robots, make exo-suits that allow them to care for themselves

    tell'm to strap on a articulated bodysuit that lets twingy muscles amplify goals?

    damn, wire me up when I can get outta bed, and I'll get myself out...

    I'd much rather have a prosthesis running down my arm and wipe my own ass, than a robot that carries me to the toilet and wipes for me.

    • by Shikaku (1129753)

      That's actually really dangerous if you have a condition like osteoporosis, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, etc... Which of course, elderly commonly get.

      • by gorzek (647352)

        That just means the exosuit should be wired directly to the brain, bypassing all those silly, fallible muscles!

        Just practice with a hot dog first or you'll rip your dick off.

  • Fair enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by starfishsystems (834319) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:46PM (#35105726) Homepage
    "We want humans caring for us, not machines"

    Fair enough. Health care is not a place for elaborate gimmicks.

    Of course we've developed all sorts of devices which improve health care. Thermometers, for example, take away subjective guesswork. Monitoring instruments allow effective and economical observation of acute-care patients, at least insofar as various simple measurable symptoms are concerned.

    All that is great. Bedside light switches are great, for that matter. And $100,000 goes a long way when buying equipment of that kind.

    Now consider a medical device whose substantial function is to look somewhat like a living being. This device does not provide care. Except in cases of fairly advanced dementia, nobody is fooled. Its monitoring ability, if any, is no better than existing devices. Very considerable work is needed to provide a suitable environment for a mobile robot.

    In short, it's a solution looking for a problem. I get that. I managed a robotics research lab for 12 years. We're always on the lookout for possible applications of our research. Sometimes we overreach ourselves. This seems to be one of those times.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      What we want is for a human being to care about us when we're sick. The methodology of the medicine is beside the point. We'd be only too happy to be hooked up to a box that took the samplesand calculated the dosage and pumped the drugs. But when you're stuck in a hospital, knowing that your chance of dying today is much higher than yesterday, and the only "caregiver" you see from your bed is a meter-tall animatron who shambles in every few hours to pat your mattress, your emotional state suffers.

      My pers

    • by sznupi (719324)
      Some random felis catus to the rescue? (I'm not sure if such one [bbc.co.uk] is a bad or good thing...)

      Not much more than for comfort of course - though sometimes I do wonder how quick the result could be with a breeding program aimed for intelligence and gripping paws ;) (given less than a year for a generation...)
    • by StikyPad (445176)

      And $100,000 goes a long way when buying equipment of that kind.

      Heck, I'm pretty sure you could buy an actual human for less than $100k, especially from nearby southeast Asia.

  • DUH... OF COURSE?

    Japanese society can come up with great ideas, but a lot of times major ideas are not thought through all the way. This was one of those ideas, it was innovation for innovations sake and didn't really solve the problem of too many seniors and not enough facilities to take care of them. I mean, how much human care could $100,000 have provided to an entire senior center? Economically it didn't even make sense.

    A basic tenant of human care is the human interaction part of it. People (yes, we're

    • by sznupi (719324)
      You put it to strongly - what if those people were to be raised by robots in the first place? ;p (remember experiments with bonding newborn monkeys to an appropriate puppet?)

      Too many people do want to put the elderly aside though, yes. They are too unsightly, I guess.
  • by Aqualung812 (959532) on Friday February 04, 2011 @02:55PM (#35105796)

    Use the robots to free up staff, let the human staff take care of the elderly. Have more automation in test results, checking on patients that are unconscious, filling meds, etc.

    I'm sure their is a list of things the people in the hospitals hate to do that are boring, repeatable, and don't involve a patient directly. Put the robots there.

    • Use the robots to free up staff, let the human staff take care of the elderly. Have more automation in test results, checking on patients that are unconscious, filling meds, etc.

      I'm sure their is a list of things the people in the hospitals hate to do that are boring, repeatable, and don't involve a patient directly. Put the robots there.

      I'm sorry, but that's not probably the problem. Ever worked at or even been in a home for the elderly, especially dementia patients like they were talking about in TFA? Th

  • Perhaps it might be cheaper to allow care workers from neighbouring countries? Something like the American H1B1 programme, but for care workers?

    --jch

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:10PM (#35105938) Homepage

    Mobile robots just aren't very good yet. But progress, after decades of frustration, is now rapid. Willow Garage [willowgarage.com] is making real progress. Their mobile robot can already fold towels, starting from a pile of randomly placed towels. When it can change a bed, they'll have something useful.

    My guess is that the killer app for this will be a mobile robot for hotels that can clean a room and reset it for the next occupant. Give this ten years.

    • by sznupi (719324)
      For capability - yeah,10 years sounds more than enough.

      For price per effect, in comparison with humans... ugh.
      • by radtea (464814)

        For price per effect, in comparison with humans... ugh.

        Assuming five times parts cost for the price it would be reasonble to have $10k worth of parts for a $50k unit. For something that just cleans hotel rooms I don't think that's unreasonable, assuming a modest level of supervision, say one human in charge of all the robots in the building. Assuming your hotel staff are costing you $10/hr all-in (not unreasonable for near-minimum-wage LEGAL workers) and working 1000 hours a year, if a robot could replace just one of them it would pay for itself within a deca

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:23PM (#35106032) Journal

    > In Japan, robots are friendly helpers, not Terminators.

    At least, for now.

  • The headline of the BBC article about this story: No, robot: Japan's elderly fail to welcome their robot overlords source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12347219 [bbc.co.uk]
  • They could always lift the xenophobic near-total ban on foreigners working in their country but that would be preposterous!

  • by Necron69 (35644) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .worraf.ttocsj.> on Friday February 04, 2011 @03:42PM (#35106194)

    The current state of the art in robotics is far too limited. If they could build a robot that could cook, clean, do laundry/dishes, and help you get dressed, I'm sure they would be more popular.

    Think of the Will Smith movie version of "I, Robot" where the robot cooks an apple pie from scratch. That's what you need.

    Necron69

    • by 517714 (762276)
      I was thinking more of Galatea from "The Bicentennial Man."
    • by citizenr (871508)

      Think of the Will Smith movie version of "I, Robot" where the robot cooks an apple pie from scratch.

      Crumbly, but good!

  • Besides the obvious price and limited capabilities issues, I think where they fell down was in treating patients as objects to be "taken care of".

    They needed to put the patient in control.

    The robotic wheelchair/bed in the article will likely be much more popular, as it enables patients to do things for themselves. But reaching things with it might be difficult - perhaps it needs to be designed to bundle up the patient so it can hold them vertically, as if standing, so they can get closer to tables and coun

    • Then at least if the controlling computer gets bored it can play chess with them.
    • "Putting the patient in control" doesn't apply to elderly people who are losing cognitive ability due to old age or outright dementia -- and there are going to be A LOT of them. For many people who succumb to Alzheimer's, the body is hale but the mind goes first. Today, this necessitates human assistance (family, eldercare staff, etc.) to get this person through their day.

      While mobility is certainly an issue for some patients, it's *far* easier to keep the elderly mobile and functional than the appalling

  • Hiroshi Yamamoto covers this exact topic in one of the short stories in The Songs of Ibis [amazon.com]. The angle there is the introduction of the first past-the-uncanny-valley android robot for nursing the elderly. Yamamoto takes on many of the particular challenges of working with the elderly (and with an aging population). The stories generally have a lovely classic sci-fi feel, using fiction to simultaneously explore new worlds and topical subject matter. It's also pretty darn near Clarke's definition of 'hard'

  • Surely there must be some stable country with a young workforce that wouldn't mind caring for elderly Japanese?

    What local government official wouldn't lick their chops at the prospect of a bunch of people with pensions guaranteed by a government, creating service and construction jobs nearby?

    There are many Japanese already living in California, and a glut of real estate in certain areas--particulary the "Inland Empire". Even some parts of the Bay Area are in trouble, although some of them are virtually irr

  • You can stand in line for the next teller or use the ATM now.

    You can stand in line at the cafeteria or have the robot bring your food now.

    Your choice.

  • Non-Japanese care workers or die alone like dogs. That they're trying to solve this using robots is just sad... so pathetic.

The only thing cheaper than hardware is talk.

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