Social Robots on the Rise in Japan

2016-10-04-1475624580-8479030-2016100401000227500012081.jpg [Image: A screenshot of NHK]

By AsiaToday reporter Kim Ye-jin - Social robots, which are designed to interact and communicate with humans, are garnering attention in Japan.

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp on Monday announced on Monday that it will be launching a tiny humanoid communication robot in 2017 called Kirobo Mini, reported Asahi Shimbun and other Japanese media outlets on Tuesday.

The 10-centimeter talking robot can converse based on information drawn from the vehicle or home. For example, when you install the robot in the car, the robot can say, "It was a long drive. How about taking a break?" When returning to your house it can say, "Welcome home! A warm bath is waiting." Related data is stored in a dedicated app.

As seen above, social robots that can communicate with people are emerging in Japan. Japanese electronics company Sharp its singing vacuum cleaner dubbed COCOROBO on October 3, a day before IoT exhibition CEATEC JAPAN 2016 opened.

Sharp paired up with YAMAHA to release a VOCALOID AI engine for their vacuum cleaner COCOROBO. This vacuum cleaner uses a technology called the "COCORO MUSIC A.I Engine" to have it sing while automatically cleaning the house. It you want to hear one of her songs, all you have to do is simply say "I want to relax."

On the same day, NHK reported that East Japan Railway Co. started a pilot project under which a multilingual humanoid robot show visitors the way in English, Chinese and Japanese in response to growing number of foreign tourists to Japan. Developed by Hitachi, Ltd, this 90-cm robot can respond to have a conversation with people, and provide information on tourist attractions around the station.

These social robots are especially garnering attention as the Japanese government is spending considerable amount of money for short-handed nursing care and childcare fields, reported SankeiBiz on Tuesday. This year's growth strategy announced by the Japanese government contains a goal to raise nursing robot market to 50 trillion yen by 2020 from 1.27 trillion yen in 2014.

In an interview with SankeiBiz, Yukai Engineering CEO Shunsuke Aoki put emphasis on human-robot communication, stating, "Connecting hearts is the key." Yukai Engineering launched a social robot called 'BOCCO' last year.