Robots May Aid Aging Japanese Population

If you grow old in Japan, expect to be served food by a robot, ride a voice-recognition wheelchair or even possibly hire a nurse in a robotic suit—all examples of cutting-edge technology to care for the country’s rapidly graying population.

With nearly 22 percent of Japan’s population already aged 65 or older, businesses here have been rolling out everything from easy-entry cars to remote-controlled beds, fueling a care technology market worth some $1.08 billion in 2006, according to industry figures.

At a home care and rehabilitation convention in Tokyo this week, buyers crowded round a demonstration of Secom Co.’s My Spoon feeding robot, which helps elderly or disabled people eat with a spoon- and fork-fitted swiveling arm.

Operating a joystick with his chin, developer Shigehisa Kobayashi maneuvered the arm toward a block of silken tofu, deftly getting the fork to break off a bite-sized piece. The arm then returned to a preprogrammed position in front of the mouth, allowing Kobayashi to bite and swallow.

Source:  Associated Press

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