One small step for the HRP-4, one giant step for mankind?
Well, that might be jumping ahead of things, but the idea of humans turning menial tasks over to robotic workers is moving out of the realm of science fiction into reality. During a press conference in Japan, officials from Kawada Industries and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology took the wraps off of a robot they expect to begin selling to universities and research institutes next year.
"It is Japan's urgent task for the early 21st Century to develop robots that could carry out simple, repetitive works ... in a bid to complement the workforce in a country that is rapidly aging with fewer and fewer children," the said in a statement. The HRP-4, as the robot is called, is said to move more easily than earlier models and "can run a range of separately-developed software applications," according to the statement quoted by AFP.
The number of Japanese aged 65 and older hit a record 22.7 percent of the population last year. It was only coincidence but the unveiling of the HRP-4 came just a day after Japan announced that the number of its citizens 100 years or older rose by 4,050 in the last year to 44,449.
This is the latest development in a long-running effort by the Japanese to turn out humanoid-like robots. The country's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry began offering funds in 1998 to encourage research which would ultimately result in the development of robots that can assume responsibility for performing many of the day-to-day tasks found in an actual human living environment.