Driven by a declining population, a trend for developing robotic babies has emerged in Japan as a means of encouraging couples to become “parents”. The approaches taken vary widely and are driven by different philosophical approaches that also beg a number of questions, not least whether these robo-tots will achieve the aim of their creators.
To understand all of this it is worth exploring the reasons behind the need to promote population growth in Japan. The issue stems from the disproportionate number of older people. Predictions from the UN suggest that by 2050 there will be about double the number of people living in Japan in the 70-plus age range compared to those aged 15-30. This is blamed on a number of factors including so-called “parasite singles”, more unmarried women and a lack of immigration.
Engineers at Toyota recently launched Kirobo Mini, for example, as a means of promoting an emotional response in humans.
The robot does not look like a baby, but instead models ‘vulnerable’ baby-like behaviors including recognizing and responding to people in a high-pitched tone and being unstable in its movements.
At the other end of the spectrum is Yotaro, a robotic baby simulator that uses projection technology for its face so it can simulate emotions and expressions.
The simulator also models reaction to touching, mood and even illness through an in-built runny nose.
Past evidence might suggest that giving couples robotic baby simulators would encourage population growth.