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Japanese seniors shun their robotic overlords

Joshua Topolsky
September 20, 2007
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According to reports out of Tokyo, Japanese senior citizens are being turned off when robots get switched on. Ifbot, a helper-robot at a Japanese nursing home which can converse, sing, express emotions, quiz seniors, and perform mercy killings (okay, that last one isn't true), has apparently not been a hit with the elderly residents. "The residents liked Ifbot for about a month before they lost interest," says Yasuko Sawada, the Kyoto-based facility's director, adding, "Stuffed animals are more popular." The news backs up what University of Tokyo geriatric social worker Ruth Campbell says, "Most (elderly) people are not interested in robots. They see robots as overly-complicated and unpractical." Apparently, Japanese electronics-makers have been scrambling to produce robotic assistants for the nation's elderly (which will make up 40-percent of its population by mid-century), but the seniors have been shunning the overly complex companions. This comes as no surprise to us, of course, as our grandparents have been complaining about the "picture radio" for decades.

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