When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Japan

A Response In Japan To Low Birthrates And Labor Shortage: Humanoid Robots

When there are fewer humans to fill certain jobs, businesses turn to different *creatures.*

Kawada Industries' NextAge humanoid robots
Kawada Industries' NextAge humanoid robots
Yann Rousseau

TOKYO - Only 1.03 million children were born in Japan last year. During the same period, 1.24 million people died. Since the country's net migration rate is close to zero, the Japanese population therefore decreased by more than 200,000 citizens in 2012. And this trend is accelerating fast.

Government projections estimate that over the next two decades, Japan will lose nearly a million people per year. “We have less and less potential workers, and youths don’t want to work in factories anymore,” observes Katsuhiko Maruo, director of the Glory Ltd. factory in the Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo.

“In Japan, the robots are the future,” sums up Maruo, who – in a world first – has entrusted an entire assembly line to humanoid robots.

A few meters away from the human workers, four robots -- with an articulated head and small cameras for the eyes, two arms mimicking human movements attached to a torso, mounted high on wheels -- are assembling the tiny elements of a money-sorting machine that will be incorporated into a cash register.

Each robot can execute up to 15 different tasks and is able to plug – if necessary – different tools into its hands. Once it is done assembling, it passes the component to the next humanoid on the production line and reorganizes, by itself, its own workstation by putting away trays of screws, rubber or plastic components. If any pieces are missing, the humanoid turns around and grabs a full tray in the stock just behind him. It then proceeds to slowly peel off the plastic film protecting the most fragile pieces.

“They can be up to 80% as productive as humans. The real difference lies in the fact that they don’t take weekends or days off and they also work at night,” says Maruo with a smile. He has already implemented 13 humanoids in his factory, together with dozens of industrial robots. “Normal robots work fast and very precisely, but they don’t have the ability to execute different kinds of tasks and are not as flexible and dexterous as humanoids,” he explains, in front of a workstation where a humanoid is working alongside a young woman.

Added value

Glory Ltd, one of the world leaders in money-handling machines, has been working with Kawada Industries for almost a year now in order to finalize the development of his new “employees” – NextAge humanoids. Kawada, the Japanese leader in robotics says they want to free humans from menial, repetitive tasks so that they can focus on tasks that create and generate added value. Kawada provides the machines and helps its clients develop software as well as the robots’ “hands.” Humanoid robots are not just equipment, they are now partners, says Kawada.

Glory Ltd. says each humanoid robot cost them 7.4 million yens (60,000 euros). This represents a year’s salary – payroll costs included – for a normal worker. “The investment is paid back in less than two years and each humanoid only consumes 1,600 yens (16 euros) worth of electricity per month,” explains Maruo, who adds that introducing these new machines didn’t provoke any social movement in the company.

The group is expecting a 10% growth in net profit for this fiscal year starting April and hasn’t laid off any personnel with the arrival of the machines. Three hundred and twenty humans are still employed in the Saitama factory where more robots will soon be arriving.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

What Jesus Really Said: Fixing The Mistranslations That Have Shaped Christianity

Jesus spoke Aramaic, but the Bible has been translated from Greek. Many mistaken translations of the Gospels have skewed the development of Christianity — and the course of history. It's time to let the Bible be retranslated to let its true message be known.

Biblical errors?

Franz Alt

BERLIN — Jesus spoke Aramaic. It was his mother tongue and 2,000 years ago it was the main language throughout the Middle East. The New Testament, however, is translated from Greek into all the languages of the world. Aramaic expert and theologian Günther Schwarz (who died in 2009) was dissatisfied with the classical translation and studied Aramaic every day for 50 years in order to better understand Jesus in his native language. In doing so, he came to the realization that about half of all Jesus' words in the gospels were mistranslated or even deliberately falsified.

His shocking conclusion: “What Christians believe, Jesus did not teach! And what Jesus taught — the Christians do not know.” The theologian has written 20 books and around 100 scientific articles about Jesus and Aramaic. He sent his findings to all German-speaking bishops. Response: zero.

So, as a journalist, I want to use my Jesus books to educate people about Günther Schwarz's findings.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ