Saturday, March 06, 2004

Washing machine for humans, motorized pants, and other advances

From a New York Times story titled Japan Seeks Robotic Help in Caring for the Aged, I learned that Japan now has washing machines for humans, motorized pants, robots that spy on old people, and other wonderful technologies:
Futuristic images of elderly Japanese going through rinse and dry cycles in rows of washing machines may evoke chills. But they also point to where the world's most rapidly aging nation is heading.

This spring Japanese companies plan to start marketing a "robot suit," a motorized, battery-operated pair of pants designed to help the aged and infirm move around on their own. Then there is the Wakamaru, a mobile, three-foot-high speaking robot equipped with two camera eyes. It is used largely by working people to keep an eye on their elderly parents at home.

The Japanese favor a robotic solution, the article explains, in part because of "xenophobia." In other words, being taken care of by robots might be a bit scary, but then anything would be better than being taken care of by foreigners.

My favorite part of the article reads:
Caught between Japan's high labor costs and anti-immigrant sentiment, some mainstream politicians have even suggested exporting some of Japan's elderly to Thailand and the Philippines, but that has never won much popular support.

"Exporting" the elderly? They could make the whole country into a giant version of Survivor. Each week, old people could compete in various challenges, and those who do not win immunity could get voted off the island. "Sorry grandma, the tribe has spoken. It's a one-way ticket to Thailand for you."

No comments: