Not having enough manpower will soon be a thing of the past with robots hitting the market to assist people in their daily tasks. Japanese phone and Internet company SoftBank Corp. is set to sell human-like robots beginning February next year to address the problem with labor in a country where the elderly are slowly outnumbering the young people.
A prototype of the robot will be released this week in stores of SoftBank for a test run. CEO Masayoshi Son said the company hopes the robots would be used as nurses, babysitters, emergency medical workers and even just as plain companions. But what makes this robot special is not the functionality SoftBank has equipped it with but its ability to learn and express emotions. Son said that, “People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart. For the first time in human history, we’re giving a robot a heart, emotions.” A cloud computing technology would be used to create the emotional capabilities of the robot. It is estimated to sell at ¥198,000 ($1,900) was developed by Aldebaran, a French robotics firm which SoftBank has invested in. Manufacturing of the robots, on the other hand, was outsourced to a Taiwanese company, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd.
More and more tech firms in Japan are coming up with robots to do simple to complex tasks. As the population continues to age, the need for more people to do the work that cannot be accomplished by the elderly is fast rising. Hence, the companies have thought of robots to address this concern. Early this week, Panasonic subsidiary ActiveLink released their exoskeleton suits that are aimed at assisting people in doing manual tasks such as lifting heavy loads. On the other hand, Honda Motors’ Asimo robot is targeting elderly people who need care providers in the comforts of their own homes. With these developments, the government expects to rake in at least ¥2.85 trillion in the robotics industry by 2020, triple of what it was worth in 2012. Soon, industries such as agriculture would also be hit by a “robotics revolution” that would help increase productivity in that sector.