7 Billion Humans | Empty Nests in the Aging Developed World: Shopping and Companion Robots and for Elderly | Kyoto, Japan

Shopping and Companion Robots and for Elderly | Kyoto, Japan

A talking robot helps 69-year-old Nabeshima Akiko shop in a test conducted by researchers from Keihanna Science City near Kyoto. Making up 23 percent of the population, the 29 million elderly in Japan far outnumber the young, an unprecedented situation that raises concerns about who—or what—will support the old in the years ahead.

The robotics folks at Keihanna Science City are developing robots to help the elderly with shopping and other chores, but mostly they are developing companions to combat kodo kushi (lonely death). The elderly Japanese person fills out a shopping list at home on their iPhone and when they walk into the store the robot recognizes them from the geolocation info in their iPhone and throws it arms in the air and says “you are here . . . and want to buy apples . . . we have some great new apples over here . . . come with me.” The robot accompanies the woman on her shopping tasks, carrying the basket and reminding her of the items on her list. The eyes of the robot follow her wherever she stands by paying attention to the iPhone geolocation data in order to give the elderly the impression they have a friend. 

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