By Manabu Kato / Yomiuri Shimbun photographer“Extend your hands. One, two, one, two.”
As a humanoid robot about 40 centimeters tall called out and moved its arms, about 20 elderly people also moved their arms in unison.
This small robot, named Palro, acts as an instructor during exercise sessions in the afternoon recreation time at Bestcare Day Service Center Sakurashinmachi, a nursing care facility in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. Manufactured by system development company Fujisoft Inc., Palro is equipped with artificial intelligence that enables it to recognize attendees, as well as the nursing care staff, with its eye cameras and also say their names.
In addition to leading exercise sessions, Palro can sing songs on request, which amazes the elderly residents of the facility. For these reasons, Palro is popular at nursing care facilities that are suffering from a labor shortage.
Robots equipped with AI and other devices have been entering human society.
In October, Takashimaya Co.’s Shinjuku Store in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, opened a special sales section just for robots that has been attracting many customers.
“What will the weather be tomorrow?” When I asked one of the robots this question, it responded, “It’ll be rainy all day” in a gentle voice like a child’s.
The department store said the new sales section has been well received, with customers saying they can discover robots’ “personalities.” It therefore plans to expand the sales floor and set up similar sections at other stores as well.
How far will robots evolve?
A research group led by Yukie Nagai, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology and a former specially appointed associate professor at the Graduate School of Engineering at Osaka University, has been researching a robot that can learn people’s emotions with its visual and audio capabilities. The group is attempting to change the facial expressions of the robot by carefully analyzing people’s facial expressions and voices.
Tetsuya Ogata, a professor of humanoid robots at Waseda University’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: “I expect [robots] to be able to adapt themselves to our lifestyles and communicate with us very naturally in the near future. Efforts should be made to help people realize that robots are convenient and useful.”Speech