Japan’s Robots: Becoming More Human

On the Cutting Edge of Robotics Research and Development

Japan has long been a leader in robotics technology, particularly in the industrial sphere. Today, though, there is a growing focus on the “human side” of robots, such as their relationship with the people who use them and even their forms. In this series we introduce a wide spectrum of examples, from popular humanoid robots to the latest original research.

A Robotic Arm with a Sense of Touch

A research group at Keiō University has developed a soft robotic arm that can adjust the strength of its grip according to what it grasps. Its movements are delicate enough to pick up a potato chip.

Robot Runway: Pepper’s Fashion Show Debut (Video)

A Tokyo fashion show for SoftBank’s humanoid robot Pepper featured outfits designed for the airport, hospital, and construction site.

Remembering AIBO

A Buddhist memorial service was held in July 2016 for AIBO robots developed by Sony, attesting to the depth of affection that the robotic pets have inspired among their owners. For them, these robots were clearly much more than mechanical devices; they were partners in life and deserving of a ceremony for their remembrance and the repose of their “souls.”

The Dolls that Sparked Japan’s Love of Robots: “Karakuri Ningyō”

The mechanical dolls of the Edo period, called karakuri ningyō, were the starting point of Japan’s love affair with robots. The intricate clockwork motors inside dolls create playful, realistic movements that capture the imagination and inspire affection.

Japan’s First Robot

Gakutensoku was a humanoid robot built in 1928 by Nishimura Makoto, an editorial writer for the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun. This is thought to be the first robot ever built in East Asia. In it, we can see the roots of modern humanoid robotics.

Fukushima’s Radioactivity-Proof Cleanup Robot

“Quince” is a disaster response robot that has been playing a crucial part in efforts to repair the damage at the nuclear power station in Fukushima.

Robot Soccer

Robotics developers have a dream: That one day their robot athletes will defeat the World Cup winners and be crowned as the best soccer team in the world. This year’s “RoboCup – Japan Open” pitted 73 teams of robots against one another for a place in the robot World Cup.

Building a Bear of a Robot

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. has unveiled an interactive robot teddy bear that can express emotions and respond to people’s input. The robot is expected to provide companionship for the elderly in care and other facilities and facilitate communication among young children.

Famous Faces

Corporations are making big efforts to advance humanoid robotics technology. The robots have gone from tools that help people to friends that people love. In this article we present some of the best-known examples.

The Robot that Won’t Help You

The trash-can robot from Toyohashi University of Technology asks humans to pick up litter that it finds. Professor Okada Michio explains how his team is looking at the ways robots and machines can better communicate with humans.

Leading the World in Humanoid Robotics

Robot technology in Japan is among the most advanced in the world. In particular, Japan is the global leader in the development of humanoid robotics. Waseda University Professor Takanishi Atsuo tells us about the progress being made in this field and the possibilities for the future.

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