A Japanese robot that reads your expressions and engages in simple conversations is supposedly expected to trigger maternal instincts.
Here’s CNET’s story about Kirobo Mini, a new Japanese robot:
From the story above, you probably think this Japanese robot is aimed at children. But an earlier story at Reuters tells us of a different demographic the robot is meant to reach.
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Toyota Motor Corp on Monday unveiled a doe-eyed palm-sized robot, dubbed Kirobo Mini, designed as a synthetic baby companion in Japan, where plummeting birth rates have left many women childless.
Toyota’s non-automotive venture aims to tap a demographic trend that has put Japan at the forefront of aging among the world’s industrial nations, resulting in a population contraction unprecedented for a country not at war, or racked by famine or disease.
“He wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby, which hasn’t fully developed the skills to balance itself,” said Fuminori Kataoka, Kirobo Mini’s chief design engineer. “This vulnerability is meant to invoke an emotional connection.”
Slash Gear goes even farther:
Now, however, it is also hoped it would trigger women’s maternal instincts enough to make them want to have full-sized, human counterparts of Kirobo. Because Japan has an aging population problem. Yeah, robots hoped to save the human populace.
I don’t think this is going to work.
Yes, Japan is facing a demographic winter nightmare. What needs to happen is for Japanese men and women to grow up and act like adults.
Using an electronic doll to manipulate the desire for a baby isn’t going to succeed. Infantilizing women is no way to encourage them to become responsible mothers. The “baby” Japanese robots are far more likely to substitute for a baby than to awaken the desire to have a real baby. It isn’t going to provoke real maternal instincts but ensure such instincts don’t lead to actual baby-making.