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bithead 04-10-2008 12:56 PM

Mr. Roboto to join Japanese work force
Mr. Roboto to join Japanese work force
Posted: April 09, 2008, 3:24 PM by DrewHasselback

Japan has come with a sci-fi solution to future labour shortages brought on by its graying population, Reuters reports -- robots.

With the number of elderly growing and a low fertility rate, the country faces a 16% cut in the size of its workforce by 2030, the government
estimates, raising worries about who will do the work in a country unused to, and unwilling to contemplate, large-scale immigration.

A Japanese think tank, Machine Industry Memorial Foundation, says robots could fill the jobs of 3.5 million people by 2025, ranging from microsized capsules that detect lesions to high-tech vacuum cleaners.

Japan could also save 2.1-trillion yen (US$21-billion) by using robots to monitor the health of the elderly, so they don't have to rely on human
nursing care, the foundation said in its report.

Takao Kobayashi, who worked on the study, said there are obstacles. "There's the expensive price tag, the functions of the robots still need to improve, and then there are the mindsets of people," he said. "People need to have the will to use the robots."

The idea does remind you of the lyrics to that 1980s tune by Styx, Mr. Roboto:

Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto
Thank you very much, Mr. Roboto
For doing the jobs that nobody wants to

Pam Heaven

Photo: Researcher for Japanese electronics giant Toshiba, Daisuke Yamamoto, displays the prototype model for the new desktop-sized robot called the "ApriPoko", which can recognize human voices and operate electronic devices such as televisions and air conditioners, at the company's laboratory in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture on March 31, 2008. The company claims the 27-cm tall robot can learn human languages, like infant speech development.
Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP Getty Images

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