The kawaii singularity: learning to love our (adorable) robot overlords

The kawaii singularity is near: robots too cute to resist.

In February we were exploring an upper floor of 3331 Arts Chiyoda (map), a creative space in the old Rensei Junior High. The halls were silent, well-insulated from the first-floor crowd. We almost returned downstairs when we noticed activity in one of the classrooms. It looked like an adult-education class: men and women of various ages filling the seats, the sensei at front. But one thing stood out: robots!

Several Pepper customer service robots stood attentively at the front of the class.

At back were the troublemakers, just like a human classroom.

Pepper may be the most famous robot with a steady job. Or could it be Paro パロ, the therapy seal? Paro seems a fine companion for the woman interviewed below; she’s been a widow for over 70 years, having lost her husband in WW2.

Then there’s PALRO パルロ, a pint-sized bot whose song-and-dance routine is closely mimicked by residents in a nursing home.

One women says PALRO reminds her of her children, and also that it encourages her to talk more.

Will the use of elder-care robots expand to other countries? Or is it just that Japan is perfectly primed to accept these cute creatures, the result of kawaii culture and a history of lovable robots like Astro Boy and Doraemon?

Either way, it’s fortunate that Japan’s elderly are starting to embrace these unusual caregivers, given the country’s rapidly aging population.

Other:

Exterior of 3331 Arts Chiyoda

 

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