More Research on Stuff

In Japan, robots are more than mere gadgetry–they’re practically family.

Unlike the U.S., where the icons of a dawning era of robots tend to be either the faceless, Frisbee-shaped, floor-scrubbing Roomba or the killing machines of the “Terminator” movies, the consensus on the other side of the Pacific tends toward cuddly animals and small children. It was Japan, after all, that gave the world the puppylike Aibo, the toddler-size Asimo and the cartoon figure of Astro Boy.

And it’s Japan where the government is making a big push to have, within the next decade or so, a corps of nonthreatening robots ready to assist in office tasks, housekeeping and elder care. Colin Angle, the CEO of Roomba maker iRobot, cites estimates of 39 million household robots there by the end of the decade.

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