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iRobot: Japan’s technology footprint

Japanese robots are becoming more and more advanced.

I’m very interested in visiting Japan, an island that seems to always be at the forefront of innovation.  I always seem to hear about Japan creating new technology that dwarfs the kinds of things we use today.  Even if the innovations aren’t technologically ground breaking, they seem to be applications that are incredibly useful.  Japan’s culture is also very different from ours – from their lack of diversity to their heritage – Japan is a place that offers an interesting look inside an old culture with modern ideals.

Just in the last few weeks, I’ve seen videos and articles about Japan’s interesting new technologies, most of which could potentially offer life changing solutions to real world problems.  I’ve posted two videos below, the first of which is a short clip that shows a new earthquake protection technology that has very promising results.  The clip simulates an earthquake type environment and shows astonishing results when the technology is applied in the situation:

The second video explains how Japan’s population is facing a crisis; much of the population is aging as the birth rate is not keeping up with the death rate.  Japan is in danger of having an extremely decreased population in 20 or so years.  This is where robots come in.  A dwindling work force coupled with a need to take care of the elderly are just two important factors that have motivated the creation of prototype robots that can fulfill some of these duties.  The video shows companies, like Honda, are banking on robots to be a necessary piece of the household, much like a car or a dishwasher.  Doing chores around the house as well as taking care of the elderly using advanced voice recognition, among many other things, is just the tip of the iceberg in robot creation.  And Japan is leading the way.  Take a look at the video below for some visuals:

I found a think tank, the RAND Corporation, that published an extensive report on Japanese technology and research that seemed to confirm my ideas about Japan’s innovations.  However, while Japan is very competitive with other world powers around the world, they are not necessarily the most innovative.  But the report also explained how their mechanical engineering is extremely innovative.  Hence, robots.  Here is the link to the report.

RAND appears to be very credible, and very impressive.  With offices around the globe, RAND employs 1,700 people from 50 countries.  In addition, they profess to “combine theory with real – world experience,” something that I thought was important.  They employ many academia professionals who obviously are well – versed in theory, but the real – world experience is what I find to be most important.  By combining these two ideas, RAND can create reports such as the one above that are effective and thorough.


About Ben K.

I'm a senior management major at Bucknell University, hailing from Westchester, NY. Upon graduation, I will begin work as a management consultant.


7 thoughts on “iRobot: Japan’s technology footprint

  1. This was a really interesting blog- I did not know the extent of Japan’s population problem. The second video was very enlightening for this purpose. Also, the robots at the end of the second video look so much like humans it is freaky! It’s interesting that they want to use them for educational purposes, and are studying how their different facial expressions affect people. Overall, very interesting sources and topic!

    Posted by alyssakinell | March 21, 2012, 10:49 am
  2. I am not going to lie, those realistic looking robots in the video make me feel a little uncomfortable considering all the movies that have been developed about robots taking over the world. However, the technology of the robots is very fascinating and their purpose is a creative solution to their decreasing population situation. My boyfriend was a military brat and actually lived in Japan for three years as a kid and he described the culture and the technology to be quite different from the U.S. and the other places he has lived. He also experienced many earthquakes living there for that short time that the earthquake technology that they have developed seems to be a great innovation for the country.

    Posted by Amanda Skonezney | March 21, 2012, 1:41 pm
  3. Its really weird to think about robots actually being implemented outside of movies. I cannot imagine walking in my home one day and being greeted by a robot. On the other hand, at the rate technology is expanding and improving we may see these creatures in the next decade or two. As your title implies, I wonder how reliable these robots will be. Weird stuff.

    Posted by Patrick | March 21, 2012, 1:44 pm
  4. Similar to Alyssa, I too did not know the extent of Japan’s population crisis. I agree with some of the sentiments above about it being a bit disconcerting having this rise in robots. On the surface while it sounds like a good idea, it seems very artificial to try and replace human actions with robots. I was honestly pretty freaked out in the first 30 seconds of the second video when I learned that woman wasn’t actually real. Although I think that is pretty amazing technology, that doesn’t make it any less haunting. I’m wondering if introduction of these robots into Japanese society really can solve their problem. I’m not so sure – it seems more of a temporary fix to a problem that’s not going away.

    Posted by Beth O'Brien | March 21, 2012, 5:38 pm
  5. As mentioned above, I didn’t know the state Japan’s population is in. I feel that we almost assume Japan continually generates more advanced technology – always coming out with the next best thing to suit their culture. The idea of having robots isn’t new, but watching the clip where the robot is portrayed as a human is a bit freaky. She moved and blinked as a living person would. To me, this is a bit alarming. I don’t see robots as being a means to solving the issue, but the educational purposes could prove to be very beneficial. The new earthquake protection technology seems to be much more valuable. I watched the entire second video and it was a bit weird. Having males be hosts to women to basically listen to them complain was a bit peculiar. Despite the variances in culture, it will be interesting to see how the development of these robots and the government’s hope to intervene on women’s sexual reproduction goes.

    Posted by Danielle Marquette | March 21, 2012, 5:46 pm
  6. There are some other technologies that have been introduced in Japan earlier than most countries. A few years ago, many phones with advanced cameras and screens with video came out well before some advanced phones popped up in the US. Also, I’ve just noticed that the Japanese have different cultural ideas regarding hotels and houses that have might seem ridiculous to other cultures. I do believe that Japan is in many ways more technologically advanced than many nations, but also have innovations that don’t have a great deal to do with technology, but might be equally important to the economy.

    Posted by Ben K. | March 21, 2012, 6:13 pm
  7. Your post simultaneously freaked me out and completely fascinated me. First, the all around technology that the Japanese people have developed is remarkable. I always wonder how long it would take to implement such technology as the earthquake-proof foundation into an entire city, for it seems to be very costly and time-consuming but at the same time cost-saving in the long run. Secondly, the robots are just freaky, but it leaves an intriguing question about where this technology will take us in the near future. Will day-to-day jobs be increasingly staffed by robots, or will they just take over their world?

    Posted by Derek | March 21, 2012, 8:05 pm

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