Once again, the Japanese prove Charles Stross' assertion that “they got our future, dammit.”
According to io9, Japan is set to become the first country with a robotics ministry, and has a plan to roll out robot labor in areas like janitorial services and caring for the elderly by 2010.
From the article:
You already see humanoid robots in Japan attending religious ceremonies, making sushi, planting rice, answering phones in corporate offices, subbing in as dance partners, and feeding old people whose motor skills are starting to fail. Animal bots have been making a big breakthrough too—from the digital Tamagochi to Paro the furry therapeutic seal, Japanese people are experts at satiating their need for companionship or assistance via low-maintenance mechanical friends. Monikers like Robot Kingdom and Robot Nation, which have been used to describe Japan since the 80s, are relevant now more than ever—with a shrinking labor force, declining birth rate, and an aging population, the demand for robotic help in hospitals, nursing homes, offices, and retail spaces is sky high. Researchers in Japan are confident that, in a few years time, humans and robots will coexist happily in a fully integrated man-machine society.Meanwhile, our robotics industry pursues more practical goals, like killing people from the air.