In Japan, robots are used for companionship, household tasks, sex. But can they be the remedy for something deeper and more human: loneliness?
While Western cultures may struggle to think of machines as having human qualities, Japan’s relationships with inanimate objects is quite different.
Kaname Hayashi, founder of Groove X, the company that built Pepper, says Japanese people are used to projecting humanity onto unconscious beings.
“In the East, we believe all things have a soul,” he says. “It’s natural for us to think even an inanimate thing has a soul.
“A tree has a soul. So does a robot.”
Yoshiaki, a middle aged man from Tokyo, embodies these cultural norms.
Like many people living in the city, he spends most of his time at work. He lives by himself when working in Tokyo and admits to feeling lonely.
But recently, he found himself a companion.
His new vacuum cleaner, which he’s named Taro and refers to as his “buddy”, is now his housemate. Taro doesn’t say much, but it does talk, and it does give Yoshiaki the sense that he’s not alone.
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