Japan's Cynosure in 2012
In this special feature, we report on the robust segments of Japan's economy – robotics, automobiles, lifestyle, tourism, and food – sectors in which the country boasts leading-edge strengths. They can be Japan's cynosure.
US-made robots were introduced immediately to the scene of the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that occurred during the Great East Japan Earthquake last March, but Japanese-made robots never appeared. Some commentators asked if Japan as the king of robotics was just an illusion. At a seminar about robotics held at the German Institute for Japanese Studies in Tokyo last November, a German attendee expressed his doubts. "I thought Japanese robot technology was the most advanced in the world, so why did they use American-made robots? Is Japan only leading in entertainment type robotics, like Sony's Aibo (dog robot) or Tamagotchi digital pets?" Dr. Takashi Komeda, vice president of Shibaura Institute of Technology, answered that "It was believed that nuclear power was safe and that accidents could not occur, so development of that type of robot was stopped. Till that point the government had provided funding for that type of research." The fact is that Japanese companies still have a commanding lead in the area of industrial robotics. And as Japan is also a world leader in terms of aging population, there is a variety of work to be done to develop robots for the elderly, the physically challenged and to support physical rehabilitation.
"Because if a machine can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too," said Sarah Connor at the end of the movie, Terminator 2. It seems that this kind of...