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The Yomiuri Shimbun

Palro, center, demonstrates exercises to elderly people at Bestcare Day Service Center Sakurashinmachi in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. Palro appeared on the market in 2012. About 1,000 units, mainly of a model geared to welfare facilities for the elderly, are now active nationwide.

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.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The humanoid robot iCub lowers its eyebrows when it sees a stern look on a person’s face, in Suita, Osaka Prefecture. Developed in Italy for cognitive studies, this robot detects visual and audio signals and expresses changes in its emotions, such as anger, joy and sadness, by moving its eyebrows and mouth in accordance with the expressions it detects.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A robot sales section was opened in October at the Takashimaya Shinjuku Store in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. Akira Sebe, who lives in the United States, spoke to each robot. “I’m looking for a robot that can let me know my schedule and that I can enjoy conversation with,” he said.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    The humanoid robot Nextage, which is being developed by Prof. Ogata, folds a towel by judging its position and shape with its eyes, in a research room in Koto Ward, Tokyo. Due to the AI it is equipped with, the robot is gaining the ability to make decisions on its own as the research progresses.

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Kirobo Mini communication robots measuring about 10 centimeters tall, which Toyota Motor Corp. began selling in May, are seen at a factory in Azumino, Nagano Prefecture. A developer said, “We’re aiming to make [a robot] that can be a partner for someone, and the person can deepen its affection for it as they spend time together, just as people have beloved cars.”

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


Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled the humanoid robot T-HR3 at the International Robot Exhibition 2017, held at Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo on Nov. 29. T-HR3 mirrors the movement of the robot’s operator. The exhibition was organized by the Japan Robot Association and other bodies. [Released on November 29, 2017]

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