Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Robots in daily life

An article is USA Today talks about how robots are entering daily life in Japan, taking on tasks such as spoon feeding the elderly,  in a country where one-fifth of the population is rapidly turning over age 65.  Robots have also been designed to aid in the bathing of  the elderly and disabled. 

The article discusses the  trend toward greater acceptance of robots in more jobs among the general  population. However, not everyone is happy with the idea.

At a hospital in Aizu Wakamatsu, 190 miles north of Tokyo, a child-sized white and blue robot wheels across the floor, guiding patients to and from the outpatients' surgery area.

The robot, made by start-up Tmsk, sports perky catlike ears, recites simple greetings, and uses sensors to detect and warn people in the way. It helpfully prints out maps of the hospital, and even checks the state of patients' arteries.

The Aizu Chuo Hospital spent about some $557,000 installing three of the robots in its waiting rooms to test patients' reactions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, said spokesman Naoya Narita.

"We feel this is a good division of labor. Robots won't ever become doctors, but they can be guides and receptionists," Narita said.

Still, the wheeled machines hadn't won over all seniors crowding the hospital waiting room on a weekday morning.

"It just told us to get out of the way!" huffed wheelchair-bound Hiroshi Asami, 81. "It's a robot. It's the one who should get out my way."

"I prefer dealing with real people," he said.
via USA Today

Oh look. There's that "wheelchair-bound" phrase again. Sigh.