Abstract: Since the 1980s the Japanese government has supported the idea of robots as home help for the elderly. Numerous governmental strategy papers and publications from engineers, robot manufacturers and politicians published since the turn of the millennium in Japan suggest that robots will save Japan and its ageing society. These robots are expected not only to eliminate labour shortages in the industrial and service sectors, but also to assist elderly people who wish to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. In order to promote the idea of a Japanese Robotopia, some governmental strategy papers even feature robot science fiction stories imagining a future in which families and the elderly lead robotically assisted lifestyles.
This article first introduces the use of robot technology for the elderly by analysing how the Japanese government envisions its use, and in particular the visionary ideas of a robot activist politician and a robot engineer.
The author argues that even if there is still more fiction than science in the discourse on the future of robot-assisted living in Japan, the interplay between interpretation and realization of robot visions shows the importance of cultural factors for the creation of new technological objects like “social robots”.
WAGNER, COSIMA. [in print]. Robotopia Nipponica – Recherchen zur Akzeptanz von Robotern in Japan. [Robotopia Nipponica: Research on the acceptance of robots in Japan]. Marburg: Tectum. [English abstract]
WAGNER, COSIMA. 2010 “”Silver robots” and “robotic nurses”? Japanese robot culture and elderly care,” in Demographic change in Japan and the EU: Comparative perspectives. edited by Annette Schad-Seifert and Shingo Shimada, pp. 131-154. Düsseldorf: Düsseldorf University Press.
WAGNER, COSIMA. 2009a ““Tele-Altenpflege” und “Robotertherapie”: Leben mit Robotern als Vision und Realität für die überalterte Gesellschaft Japans [“Tele-care for the elderly” and “robot therapy”: Living with robots as a vision and reality for Japans ageing society],” in Japanstudien 21—Altern in Japan edited by Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien (DIJ), pp. 271-298. München: Iudicium.
WAGNER, COSIMA. 2009b. “”The Japanese way of robotics”: Interacting “naturally” with robots as a national character?” in Proceedings of the 18th IEEE International Symposium on Robots and Human Interactive Communications, 27.9.-2.10.2009, Toyama / Japan, pp. 169-174.