Japan hits a dead-end for robots (Taro 3Yen quoted by The Independent)

BBC news revealing low-tech japanBack on the 15th, the BBC quoted me*, about Japan’s low-tech life (3yen).

It turns out that on same day, that Michael Fitzpatrick writing for The Independent (No. 4 in the world) also devoted two paragraphs to my thoughts on the electric dampdreams that the Japanese have for robots.

electric dreams the japanese have for robotFarting-Robosapiens-dancing

Electric dreams: Is it the end for robot development?
—We were promised a life of leisure thanks to hard-working robots and fiendishly clever cyborgs. But the android fantasy has largely been terminated, argues Michael Fitzpatrick—
Wednesday, 14 July 2010 | The Independent (UK)
For years technocrats have been touting robots as the next big revolution, so big that their importance will rival that of car production and that they will create a utopia, “an Athens without the slaves”….

“Without ‘consciousness’, robots are just spot welders, bolt-tightening arms, burger flippers, spray painters, and factory drones that can swivel dexterously back and forth in pre-programmed for assembly line work. They’re expensive toasters – one-trick-ponies. It will be many decades before anthropomorphic robots are going to be sentient,” says Taro Hitachi*, a Tokyo-based Japan blogger and an expert in patents. “Decades of creating fantasy robots, like Asimo, Aibo, Roborior et al, has bankrupted the research and development departments of Japan while not resulting in any viable products.”
Nor does he accept that Japan’s high robot count is a true reflection of the reality: “Japan counts almost any kind of semi-autonomous factory machinery as a ‘robot’, whereas in the rest of the world, milling machines and potato pealing machines are just factory automation.”

As mentioned in The Independent, one thing that really burns me is Japan’s public policy of GROSSLY inflating Japan’s number of “employed robots” and claiming to have more working robots in the world.
I specifically know that old-fashioned routers that were pushed along a funky sheet-metal templates/stencils by compressed air to cut plastic faceplates at Hitachi Odawara Works were factiously counted as “robots.”
My grandfather, who was a master machinist at Western Electric in 1939, made the same kind of “pneumatic router jigs.” He would be greatly amused that in Japan he would be called a “roboticist” and a “production engineer.” Ninety percent of the time when I meet an “engineer” in Japan I discover they don’t have any kind of engineering degree.

Note: The artical refers to me by my pen name Taro Hitachi—a corporate ‘John Doe’—that Hitachi forced me to use on all the books and papers I wrote them because of their corporate copyright policy. Hitachi was worried that I would run away to an even higher paying job if I was a “published author” and my name was listed as one of the authors of hundreds of Hitachi books, manuals, and papers that I wrote for them.

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I'm a pale, alien, quadruped who has worked for 25+ years at "Maybe-the-Largest Inc." in Tokyo.

14 thoughts on “Japan hits a dead-end for robots (Taro 3Yen quoted by The Independent)”

  1. I smell muney… should start selling tshirt “Taro Hitachi iz maye h0m3b0y”, next gaijin sweat scented candles, relaxation female massagers… smell absorbant antibacterial cat litter…

    muney… muney… muney…

  2. Several of the wannbe-robot-humping commenters on The Independent mentioned that Japanese robotics have greatly advanced the “Cause” by reducing the cost and sophistication of robot kits.

    “Let’s lovedoll everyone, happy!!!

  3. Anxious to stay ahead of the pack
    Financial Times — December 8 2010
    One of Japan’s most beloved comic book characters is Doraemon, a “robotic cat from the future” with a stock of wondrous 22nd century technology that he uses to try to solve the present-day problems of his hapless human companion, Nobita.
    The gadgets that Doraemon plucks from his fourth-dimensional pocket usually end up causing more trouble than they cure, but the lovable blue-skinned automaton still serves as a fine metaphor for Japan’s enduring love of advanced technology and faith in its transformative power.
    All across the archipelago, business people, scientists and officials are searching for futuristic solutions to the many problems pressing upon the world’s third-largest economy.
    Demographic decline and a dwindling labour force? Build industrial robots to staff the production lines and synthetically sympathetic domestic models to cater to the needs of the elderlymore….

    “Fair use” quotation –www.law.Cornell.edu

  4. “Instead of building robots that go where humans never could, Japan, renowned for its robotics expertise, invested in machines that do things that humans can already do – such as talk, dance, play the violin and preside over weddings.”
    –via The Sydney Morning Herald | April 2, 2011: Robots fail a nation when needed the most

  5. In order for robots to melt into the background in office or home environments, the robot has to adapt to *our* environment, not us changing around our world to fit the robots. I’m extremely picky about getting my computer set up just the way I like it, because computers should serve *me*, not the other way around. Same goes for robots. I don’t want to rebuild my home or office for the convenience of robots.

    I do a lot of homebrew robotics. I, and everyone else, brings robots to club meetings in a motley assortment of tubs, bins, and cartons, and big robots go int the back of pick up trucks. — bah, how primitive. A home service robot needs to be easy to transport. That means it has to fit in my car, exactly where a human would sit, without any accommodation. It needs to get to the second floor by going up the stairs, not by some “robot service elevator” put in just for it. So I think in the end we need to have a robust bi-pedal robot platform that folds in the same places that humans do and is human scale, because the world is built to human scale and built for beings that fold where humans do. Robots will only be useful when they can operate in our world without us having to remodel the world for robots.

    Bi-pedal robots aren’t worth pursuing for anthropomorphism — bi-pedal robots are worth pursuing because they could fit easily into our world and disappear into the background.

  6. ASIMO vs PETMAN: “Japanese Robots Are A Joke!”
    Sankaku Complex | Nov 8, 2011
    Japanese are aghast at how pathetic their nation’s robotic poster-child ASIMO is compared to America’s new bipedal military prototype PETMAN.
    For those not yet familiar with PETMAN, Boston Dynamics’ famed bipedal testbot, the video below shows how far science can progress if only a nation has the foresight to run the world’s largest weapons development programme…



  7. robots.net — Robots Podcast #93:
    Turning Robots into Products
    Erin Rapacki, who previously worked at DEKA, iRobot, and Anybots, and is currently Product Marketing Manager for Mobile Robots at Adept Technology…
    … Ms. Rapacki recently authored a guest post on the IEEE Spectrum Automaton blog, titled “Dear Reader, I Have News for You: Robots Are Boring” in which she states:

    What we need from robotics companies and roboticists everywhere are more boring robots: Robots that would be most appreciated when they complete a task in a manner that is smooth and economical; robots that investors and companies can trust building business models around

  8. Here’s another great example:

    I have seen automatic doors being counted as “robots” at Toshiba’s Kawasaki R&D Center when the Japanese government sends their Robot Survey (census).
    Luckily, here’s one company door that won’t be falsely counted as a robot—The main entrance of Japan Automatic Door Company’s Okayama Sales Office.
    japan auto-door on google street
    See it for yourself on Google Street.

    View Larger Map

    I just figured out that the large Yokohama office of Japan Automatic Door Company also has an automatic doorknob on their front door.

    automatic doorknob google street yokohama
    Google Street...

  9. Taro 3Yen wrote:
    As mentioned in The Independent, one thing that really burns me is Japan’s public policy of GROSSLY inflating Japan’s number of “employed robots” and claiming to have more working robots in the world.

    I remember another country which inflated its figures like that

    At least the statistics were under control
    DER SPIEGEL 37/1991 (Google Translate)
    To accelerate technical progress, Günter Mittag [secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and a central figure in the East German planned economy] demanded companies must use more robots and computers. The result: Each elevator was classified as a robot and they renamed each PC screen as a CAD/CAM workstation.


    Allein die Statistik im Griff
    DER SPIEGEL 37/1991
    Um den technischen Fortschritt zu beschleunigen, verlangte der Zentralist Mittag, die Betriebe müßten mehr Roboter und Computer einsetzen. Das Resultat: Jeder Fahrstuhl wurde nun als Roboter ausgegeben, jeder Bildschirm in CAD/CAM-Arbeitsstation umbenannt

  10. Well done buddy–That’s tom terrific, funnel-shaped “thinking cap,” which also enhanced his robot intelligence.

  11. Japan’s personal service robots are novel, interesting—and useless
    Quartz | 2016-May-08
    Service robots need artificial intelligence (AI) to navigate real-world variables and realize their potential. While Japan excels at making high-tech physical goods, it doesn’t stand out in software or AI—unlike, say, Google parent Alphabet, whose AI program AlphaGo recently beat top players of Go, a complex board game much beloved in Japan.
    The government worries that foreign companies like Alphabet and IBM will lead the charge in AI.
    “Should Japan lag behind in terms of ideas about robot development or business models… [the country] will draw more concerns over the situation in Japan where craftsmanship enjoys a victory but business suffers a defeat,” officials at Japan’s Ministry of Economics, Trade, and Industry (METI) said…
    …Wakamaru, a helper robot Mitsubishi Heavy Industries introduced in 2005. Mitsubishi initially hoped to sell 100 Wakamarus. The robots would act as guides and receptionists at homes and offices, able to tap into the internet to read off weather reports and emails.
    … By 2007 they were only available for rent and largely forgotten.
    “I probably shouldn’t show you this,” said Yoshio Matsumoto, a service-robots researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tokyo. The photo that pops up on his computer shows dejected-looking Wakamarus crowded in a cage on the grounds of Osaka University, which helped develop them. A sign shows these once-hot robots are now on their way to the rubbish heapmore...

  12. No doubt Softbank will soon be giving up on the whole PEPPER robot idea…

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