In fact, in Japan, robots are changing the way people live, work, play and even love, which has led Japan's government to establish a committee to establish safety guideline for the keeping of robots in homes and offices (Faiola; Yamamoto).
However, according to the Daily Yomiuri newspaper, Japan's NEDO institute, which coordinates national science and research development, found it far too difficult to set a single standard to cover the variety of robots, but the panel did ensure that the design of robots at the World Expo would not harm humans (Faiola; Yamamoto). As interaction between machines and humans in the household becomes more commonplace, safety has become the focus for domestic robot makers (Faiola; Yamamoto).
In January 2005, officials predicted that every household in Japan will own at least one robot by 2015, if not sooner (Faiola; Yamamoto). The year 2005 was dubbed the unofficial "year of the robot" by scientists and government authorities (Faiola; Yamamoto). At the Expo, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' yellow midget robot, Wkamaru, greeted visitors in four languages and guided them to their desired destination, while a trio of humanoid robots by Sony, Toyota and Honda, danced and played musical instruments at the opening ceremony (Faiola; Yamamoto). Parents at the Expo could even leave their children in the care of NEC's PaPeRo, a robotic babysitter that recognizes the individual faces of children and can notify parents by mobile phone in case of an emergency (Faiola; Yamamoto).
Other robots on display included a wheelchair robot that navigates traffic crossings and footpaths using a global positioning and integrated circuit chip system (Faiola; Yamamoto). Expo visitors were allowed to enter a robot room to see a more distant vision of the future (2020), in which merely speaking a word from the couch will open the refrigerator door, allowing a personal robot assistant to deliver a beverage of choice (Faiola; Yamamoto). Kazuya Abe, an official at NEDO, said,
We have reached the point in Japan of major breakthrough in the use of robot technology and our society is changing as a result. People are and will be living alongside robots...This is all about artificial intelligence, this is about the creation of something that is not human, but can be a complement or companion to humans in society. The future is happening here now"
Although the United States is just as advanced as Japan regarding artificial intelligence, the focus of the U.S. has largely been on military applications, while the Japanese government, along with academic institutions and corporations are investing billions of dollars on consumer robots that are aimed at changing everyday life (Faiola; Yamamoto). However, Japan is driven by unique societal needs, a record low birthrate and its status as the nation with the longest life-span, leading the Japanese to worry about who will staff the factories and other employment areas (Faiola; Yamamoto). Alsok, Japan's second-largest security guard company, has developed a line of robo-cops that detect and thwart intruders using sensors and paint guns, and can put out fires and spot water leaks (Faiola; Yamamoto).
One reason why robots are more accepted in Japan than in Western countries, is religion, according to Norihiro Hagita, director of the ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories in Keihanna Science City near Kyoto. Says Hagita, "In Japanese religion, we believe that all things have gods within them. But in Western countries, most people believe in only one God. For us, however, a robot can have an energy all its own" (Faiola; Yamamoto).
It is rumored that a humanoid robot will carry the Olympic flame in the opening ceremonies in China (Hirohisa). Samsung Electric in South Korea is said to have initiated development of humanoid robots, and Germany has established a large-scale humanoid robotics project (Hirohisa). Researchers in France and the United States are also greatly interested in humanoid robots, and several universities are planning to purchase several models (Hirohisa).
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Faiola, Anthony; Yamamoto, Akiko. "We, robot: the future is here." The Washington