Japan’s Obsession with Robots and Automation

Written by Sai Teja.

Japan is one of the most developed countries in the world. It is well known for its traditional arts, distinctive culture, and unique traditions. They are not afraid to mix the world’s fashion with theirs and they love robots!

Robots are found everywhere in Japan, whether in coffee shops, restaurants, or at the subway stations; they are working for you. They dance, serve food, bring groceries, and can perform all kinds of tedious and repetitive tasks, surpassing human workers and allowing them to do other invaluable tasks.

Japan’s need for Robots 

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Image by Unsplash

Japan is an ageing country, the average age is 46 years old: almost doubled the world’s average and the fertility rate is 1.4 that means the population is shrinking. Its overall population is now declining at the fastest rate globally, yet people are living longer than ever. For example, Japan sells more adult diapers than baby diapers every year. And fewer workers to support an ageing population means poor economic growth.

The service sector here accounts for about 70% of Japan’s economic output, this makes it hard for businesses to raise wages and puts a strain on the industrial sector. This is a looming crisis, but one effect of it is the labour market is very expensive and scarcity of lower-skilled labour.

Automation here is not a matter of the cost of efficiency or cost savings as much as it might be about survival. So, instead of paying a sales clerk to sit and collect your money to buy a piece of gum, just put in a machine and automate the whole thing.

As they have solved social issues using automation, now they are trying to solve every issue using robots.

Disaster Robots 

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Image by Pixabay

Disasters happen often in Japan, mostly natural disasters because of its climate and topography, and it has experienced countless earthquakes, typhoons, and other types of disasters. Robots are very handy as they can travel into tiny places, withstand temperatures, radiation, and can rescue people in extreme conditions. Japan makes complete use of robots at times of disasters and they save thousands of people.

One such example is The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, where a tsunami wave hit Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma resulted in a massive disaster. Robots are cleaning up the radioactive fuel for years as it is impossible for humans to finish the task.

Exoskeletons

 

Japan has been trying to make exoskeletons a reality for many years. While they’ve certainly come a long way from some earlier prototypes, only now are the legs starting to leave the lab.

An exoskeleton is a wearable device that supports and protects the body. As Japan is an ageing population, the idea is to make elderly people carry physical activities without strain on the body. It’s interesting to see distinct forms of exoskeletons can take, from full-body suits to simpler suits which just helps with one kind of task or one part of the body. These also help people with navigation in extreme conditions such as wearing a protective suit in nuclear power plants. 

Can you believe paralyzed people are able to walk?

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Image by H.I.S. Co.

Yes, In Japan, It’s possible. Japan has built an Iron man like exoskeleton known as Hal Suit, this suit makes paralyzed people walk again using Artificial Intelligence. This suit detects brain signals sent to muscle and helps them move the leg. This is one of the best things automation is achieved. These suits were built by the company named Cyberdyne; Yes, the same company that makes the terminator which goes back in time and tries to wipe us all out, coincidence it is.

The Robot Hotel 

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Image by H.I.S. Co.

The Henn na Hotel, roughly translates to the strange hotel, that describes the human experience of a place exclusively run by robots. By entering the hotel, you can see two receptionists, which among one is a dinosaur robot that guides you to the process. Next to it, there is another machine that registers your identity using face recognition, even your luggage is carried by a robot to your room. The room door opens by recognizing your face. After entering the room, guess what there is another robot, your assistant.

What about automation threatening to take away jobs?

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Image by Pexels

Well, here it’s quite opposite. Japan’s cultural acceptance of robots is much higher than in most places. In English, they define a robot as a type of programmable machine, but in Japanese, the technical definition is just a controllable artificial human – not as scary. That could explain why there are so many robots here are cute or put another way, a cute controllable artificial human. In fact, the prime minister unveiled reforms, hoping the robot market will reach 21 billion dollars by 2021. The vision is to be the largest society in the world supported by robotic technology.

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”— Stephen Hawking

If you are a tourist here, you can see robots everywhere. As soon as you step off the plane, you can see robots welcoming you and assisting you in whatever need you to have. The robot hotel is just one among many businesses, there are many places such as airports, restaurants, shopping malls and various other businesses that are staffed by robots. 

As far-fetched as they may seem, Japan is exactly the place where these robots massive nation can take form. Its ageing population, shrinking workforce means robots are needed and its love of technology means they are welcome. Japan’s visit will be earth-shattering, high flying, and eye-opening experience as you can see these robots everywhere you go.

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sai1

Sai Teja is a contributor at The Strong Traveller. He is a content writer and passionate about writing and telling stories. He strongly believes that hard work and love for the profession can get you anywhere you want. Being a Computer Science graduate hasn’t stopped him from doing what he loves the most.


Also, read another post by the writer, 

Top 7 Hardest Visas to Get in the World

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