The Future of Japanese Robotics

The Japanese has always been a keen bunch for the world of robotics. They are so engrossed in the robotics industry that they constantly introduce new kinds of hi-tech robots to the global market, while the rest of the world is struggling to keep up. In fact, robots are already taken for granted in some Japanese factories, as there are robots everywhere. Robots greet you when you enter facilities. Robots make sushi. Robots clean the floors. They wash your hands. They serve tea. They plant rice and tend paddies. In Japan, humans and robots interact socially as they routinely live side by side.

Financial statistics on robotics

The robotics revolution is extremely important for the Japanese. With approximately 25% of the population at age 65 and older, the country is banking heavily on robots to replenish the lack of manpower and care for the elderly. For almost a decade now, the Japanese government has funded a plethora of science projects involving the creation, design, and research of robots. These include a $50 million injection for the first phase of a humanoid robotics project, and an annual $10 million from 2006 to 2010 to develop key robotics technologies. Further, the government estimates the robotics industry will experience a very lofty rise from $5 billion in 2006 to $26 billion in 2010, and nearly $70 billion by 2025.

Robots are humans’ friends

Remember Tamagotchi, the hand held device that allows you to raise and take care of a virtual pet? That particular invention exemplifies how the Japanese view the existence or the need for robots. Unlike us westerners who portray robots as merciless and violent killing machines in the movies and in general science fiction, the Japanese have long seen robots as friendly helpers and catalysts in industrial dealings, as they work faster and more precise. The Japanese are also more accepting of robotics because unlike Roman Catholicism or Islam, their native Shinto religion does not view it as immoral. To the Japanese, the idea of a robot with feelings and mental capacity is not as threatening as it might be in other cultures.

Robot revolution

Other than the Japanese, a lot of people are anticipating the robot revolution, where robots would walk the streets, talk like human beings, and work like horses. That revolution has been going on quietly for quite some time now in Japan. With over 400,000 robots working at factories in 2005, Japan is undoubtedly an industrial robot powerhouse. In fact, the country’s leading financial experts believe that due to high supply and stable demand, the cost of machinery is already going down while labor costs are steadily rising. This means that robots would have to replace low-cost workers soon, thereby greatly boosting productivity. Further, Japan’s Trade Ministry recently announced its request for 1 million industrial robots to be installed all over the country by 2025. Each robot is said to be capable of replacing 10 low-cost employees. This means the guaranteed 1 million-robot army of workers will eventually represent 10 million human workers. In Japan, that is about 20% of the current work force. Indeed, robots are the cornerstone of Japan’s global competitiveness.