Honda Asimo

Brave old world

Robots straight out of Star Wars are helping the elderly in Japan go about their daily activities.

Japan, land of anime, kinky vending machines and intelligent toilets, is using robots to help its elderly. The robots come in all shapes and sizes – humanoid figures, mechanical jackets, furry seals – and do everything from keeping the aged company to helping them harvest radishes. The Great Robot Exhibition held recently in Tokyo drew huge, admiring crowds. Japan is facing what demographers call a "super-aging" population, with a sharply decreasing number of workers to support retirees, and is looking to technology for help.