- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

TOKYO (AP) — A feeding machine and a furry, therapeutic seal — both designed to make life easier for older people — were among robots honored yesterday at a government-sponsored award ceremony.

The My Spoon feeding robot, which won a prize in the service category at Robot Award 2006, helps elderly or disabled people eat with a joystick-controlled swiveling arm.

My Spoon, which is already sold in Japan and Europe, doesn’t force feed: The spoon-fitted arm stops at a preprogrammed position in front of the mouth so users can bite and swallow at their leisure, according to developer Secom Co. It sells for as much as $3,454.

Another robot receiving an award in the service category was Paro, a furry seal fitted with sensors beneath its fur and whiskers. It responds to petting by opening and closing its eyes and moving its flippers.

About 800 of the seal robots, developed by Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science, are used for therapy in Japanese nursing homes and by autistic and handicapped children, according to the award’s Web site.

Another winning robot at the lavish Tokyo ceremony was a mammoth, automated vacuum cleaner that uses elevators to travel between floors. The wheeled robot, designed by Fuji Heavy Industries, already cleans floors at several skyscrapers in central Tokyo, the Web site said.

Robots are seen in Japan as a way to deal with a rapidly aging population and combat an impending labor shortage. The country’s population of 127 million is expected to shrink by 30 percent by 2055, with those ages 65 or older making up 40 percent of that figure, according to government forecasts released earlier this week.

The Robot Award was set up earlier this year by the Japanese government to promote research and development in the robotics industry.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide