Researchers and futurists in Japan had been predicting for a number of years that robots would become companions and aids for a growing cohort of seniors in Japan.
But some are having doubts. Are seniors and the first generation of robots compatible?
The Wall Street Journal asked that question in a 2006 story entitled: Health; The Future of Health Care? Robots and other high-tech help are close at hand; But is it the kind of help we want? by Sarah Lueck. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jun 26, 2006. Pg. R.7
....Just like small children who quickly lose interest in a new toy....
"The residents liked ifbot for about a month before they lost interest," said Yasuko Sawada, director of the facility in Kyoto, western Japan, shaking her head as she contemplated the 495,000 yen ($4,300), 45-cm-tall (18-inch-tall) "communication robot."
"Stuffed animals are more popular," she remarked dryly.
High-tech gadgets and futuristic robots which Japan had hoped might lend a hand when the population turns gray haven't caught on with the elderly, who according to forecasts will make up around 40 percent of the population by the middle of the century.
"Most (elderly) people are not interested in robots. They see robots as overly-complicated and unpractical. They want to be able to get around their house, take a bath, get to the toilet and that's about it," said Ruth Campbell, a geriatric social worker at the University of Tokyo.
Japanese manufacturers have learned the hard way that the elderly want everyday products adapted to their needs -- easy to read for those with poor eyesight, big buttons for people with trembling hands and clear audio for the hard of hearing.
Among the most high-profile failures was Hopis, a furry pink dog-like robot capable of monitoring blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature.
Faced with poor sales, its manufacturer Sanyo stopped production of the robot dog and instead focused on utilitarian devices for the elderly such as height-adjustable countertops and phones with jumbo-sized keys."
Full story here>>[...]
...well maybe we just have to wait for the next generation of stuffed toy robots and robotic teddy bears
See Josh Bongard's (University of Vermont) 90 second elevator pitch, on Adaptive robots in the Meet the TR35 session at the Emerging Technology 2007 Conf at MIT