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Female researchers working with Yotaro report catching "baby fever". They began to fantasize about having children of their own.  (Source: CNN)

Yotaro cries and moves much like a real baby.  (Source: CNN)
Strange robot may provide a novel solution to Japan's population shrinkage

In a country where robots assist in a broad range of duties -- from caring for the elderly, to mopping the floor, and even exploring the depths of space -- the artificial companions may have been handed their most important assignment yet.  

Biology compels most organisms to reproduce.  But in Japan, something bizarre is happening -- couples aren't reproducing.  The nation has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and to make matters worse, it also has one of the highest life expectancies.  It is expected that 40 percent of its population will be over the age of 65 by 2050.

Japan in recent years has also been shown to have the least sex on a weekly basis – only 34 percent of Japanese reported having sex on a weekly basis while a whopping 87 percent of Greeks were getting busy under the sheets.

Enter Yotaro, a charming "low-tech" robot.  Yotaro cries, giggles, and kicks when you tickle him.  He sneezes and his nose runs. When he is upset, he even shakes his rattle to calm  down.  But Yotaro is no human child -- he's a “synthetic”.  Hiroki Kunimura, of the University of Tsukuba led the team who created the tyke.  He states, "A robot can't be human but it's great if this robot triggers human emotions, so humans want to have their own baby."

This novel use of the baby was chanced upon.  Originally the idea was just to create a robot with international appeal.  As a baby has no language skills, it would face no language barrier like an adult android might.

Then the research noticed the unusual reaction people had to the baby -- they began to want to have children of their own.  This year, the Japanese federal government offered 13,000 yen, approximately $150 USD, per month, per child as an incentive to have children.  But it may be little Yotaro that convinces them to listen to their biological clocks.

Project member Madoka Hirai said she never thought about having a child, but after Yotaro became baby preoccupied.  She began to notice ads for baby clothes and think about what it might be like to have a baby of her own.  

Kunimura, who refers to himself as Yotaro's daddy, says that reaction may hold the key to solving Japan's crisis.  He states, "People asked us if this baby robot was created to tackle the low birth rate in Japan.  I think it's true that young working couples have no chance to have personal contact with babies in their lives. The people who came to the robot exhibitions enjoyed touching Yotaro, like a real baby."

There's no official plans for a wide-scale rollout of Yotaro yet, but it would not be surprising if the government tries to give them away to citizens.  After all, if you have to pay citizens $1,800 USD a year to have a baby, that's a sign you're in pretty dire trouble.

 



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Jesus H Christ....
By Cheesew1z69 on 6/24/2010 9:06:48 AM , Rating: 4
This will help them to want babies? Sigh.....




RE: Jesus H Christ....
By piroroadkill on 6/24/2010 9:08:37 AM , Rating: 3
Exactly. What the fuck, this thing is disturbing.

There's a reason you don't want kids: because they're annoying, they whine, and mean that you become a husk of a person destined only to serve the whims of your children instead of your own dreams until they're old enough to leave.. and you're too old to pursue what you wanted


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By MrBlastman on 6/24/2010 9:25:53 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
There's a reason you don't want kids: because they're annoying, they whine, and mean that you become a husk of a person destined only to serve the whims of your children instead of your own dreams until they're old enough to leave.. and you're too old to pursue what you wanted


I call BS on that.

You obviously have never had a child. Until then, you can't possibly understand.

First off, the results of this study are disturbing in that the people begin to want to have babies but don't actually know what they are getting into first. Fact: Newborns are not easy and they aren't all smiles, giggles and tickles. Reality: They poop, pee and puke alot, sprinkled in with lots of crying, fussing, whining and a boatload of laundry.

The study doesn't even begin to reveal this to people. Second fact: Newborns quickly grow out of the annoyances and begin interacting, while still requiring time and attention, a sense of purpose begins to set in on their parents. Also, motivation.

You can sit around your whole life being a fat slob doing only for yourself, or, you can have some kids which motivate you to take action with your life which drive you to do things you never would have imagined.

I know plenty of people, despite having children, managed to follow their dreams with kids and lived successful, full lives. I argue they even lived fuller lives _with_ kids than without. You can pursue your dreams with a child and in many ways, will find motivation to strive harder to pursue them when you have them than without.

They motivate you to get off your butt and make something of your life.

Not only that, they also give you a family to share your time and experiences with. When you grow older, at the least you probably won't grow old alone.


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By fredthelight on 6/24/2010 9:37:58 AM , Rating: 2
I don't have kids, but I agree to most of what you said.

Talking back about japan, I think it's more than time the rulers of this country check what's wrong with their culture/society so that it creates as such troubles as people not wanting to have babies... unless they already realised we fucked up our planet and they don't want to give it to their kids..?


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By hughlle on 6/24/2010 9:55:46 AM , Rating: 2
i can motivate myself to make something out of my life if i chose, i don't need kids to do that. and bankruptcy is hardly ideal motivation :)

i also help plenty of people quite happily, why do they have to be my child for me to help them?

i forever get your last bit from my mother, "everyone needs someone" and that kind of tosh, rubbish, you may need people when you're older, doesn't mean i do, i can't recall the last time i spoke to my siblings, i couldn't care less if i have someone to chat to, i'm quite capable of being independent, unlike the scary majority who don't even seem to be able to walk to the shop without having facebook on the go on their iphone.


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By Wiggy Mcshades on 6/24/2010 10:08:28 AM , Rating: 1
That's just being antisocial in reality. Although I do agree with you on one part, most people are almost addicted to being in contact with people constantly.


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By MrBlastman on 6/24/2010 10:09:00 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
unlike the scary majority who don't even seem to be able to walk to the shop without having facebook on the go on their iphone.


That's the great thing about having a family--you don't need that crap like facebook or your fancy iphone. When I get home, phones are turned off, heck, we do something astonishing a lot of people do not do--we IGNORE our phones at times when at home. Tough crap for those who are calling, we'll get back to them.

It isn't like without one life would be empty. No, not at all. Kids make your life more _interesting_. Ours was quite interesting before them, with all the camping, hiking, biking, car racing and other non-television related activities, now with a child I can see it becoming more interesting than before.

Kids are like having your own science experiment at home, away from the office. It is fascinating to see what you can make happen via input you provide them. Just don't tell your wife you look at them like a science experiment. :)


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By UsernameX on 6/24/2010 10:57:31 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Kids are like having your own science experiment at home, away from the office. It is fascinating to see what you can make happen via input you provide them. Just don't tell your wife you look at them like a science experiment. :)


You know that's the first time I've heard that but it definitely makes sense lol. Sure they will have their own free will... eventually. But until that happens you have the potential to drastically change their lives.


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By xmichaelx on 6/24/2010 3:48:11 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
You can sit around your whole life being a fat slob doing only for yourself, or, you can have some kids which motivate you to take action with your life which drive you to do things you never would have imagined.


99% of parents I know are fat slobs who do nothing, and have done nothing. Kids don't motivate -- they are an excuse to be slothful.

I applaud the other 1%, though.


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By Samus on 6/25/10, Rating: 0
RE: Jesus H Christ....
By ClownPuncher on 6/25/2010 5:56:59 PM , Rating: 4
I don't know which Japan you're talking about, the one I know has millions of beautiful women.


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By cruisin3style on 6/26/2010 4:40:20 PM , Rating: 2
I lived with my bro and my niece from her being 6 mos. to 2.5 yrs old, and also spent enough time during the first 6 mos. to acknowledge that kids can be annoying... especially during the first several months. You definitely aren't gonna be sleeping as well as normally. But spending time with her now, at 3, is really rewarding and believe it or not pretty fun.

I'll readily admit that I was able to just avoid some of the more difficult times, and maybe part of it is experiencing a pretty serious and prolonged relationship not long ago, but I wonder if spending time with one when you are at a certain age or place can't help but make you think of having one of your own.

That said, I'd also just like to throw out there don't have one if you're not ready...seems to have negative effects on my brother, who was more or less still a kid himself when she was born.


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By MozeeToby on 6/24/2010 9:43:42 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know, in the right situation I could see this having an effect. If they can do a little more research and show that this device is actually affecting women's hormone levels and/or neurochemistry I would probably accept their premise.

If you live most of your life in Japan with no significant exposure to young children I could see that affecting your own desire to have children. I know my wife's level of baby wanting fluctuates wildly when there are and aren't babies around.


RE: Jesus H Christ....
By FaceMaster on 6/27/2010 7:12:43 PM , Rating: 1
Firstly, they need to get them to stick the right part of their body in the right hole. Most of the Japanese porn I look up consists of eels, shit and funnels. It's totally messed up, dude.


Batteries Not Included
By Redwin on 6/24/2010 9:25:02 AM , Rating: 2
... just wait till the real baby comes and they realize you can't unplug it.




RE: Batteries Not Included
By ClownPuncher on 6/24/2010 12:00:10 PM , Rating: 4
You can too, they call it Benadryl. To all the people that DO give their babies Benadryl, you are bad parents.


low birth rate?! must be because of...
By Mikescool on 6/24/2010 9:07:56 AM , Rating: 3
all the porn in Japan!




By ClownPuncher on 6/24/2010 11:59:12 AM , Rating: 2
Those hot pixels.


By amanojaku on 6/24/2010 9:40:19 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
Japan in recent years has also been shown to have the least sex on a weekly basis
That's because the men can't find double-D breasted, green-haired, alien cat girls, and the women are into bishonen.




And this is a bad thing?
By JonnyDough on 6/24/2010 3:51:10 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
The nation has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and to make matters worse, it also has one of the highest life expectancies. It is expected that 40 percent of its population will be over the age of 65 by 2050.


This is a bad thing? Why is it "matters worse?" Ever been to Tokyo where entire families live in tiny one room apartments, drive tiny cars, and virtually have no room at all? I'm thinking that the earth with around 7.5 billion people or whatever really doesn't need to be making more babies. How about we raise the quality of life, and not keep trying to overpopulate until we're even more unsustainable.




RE: And this is a bad thing?
By Wurum on 6/24/2010 4:22:01 PM , Rating: 4
I don't know what Japan's social welfare system is like, but if it's anything like the U.S. then it's a really bad thing to have 40% of your population over 65 i.e., in retirement and drawing social security.

The U.S. avoids the problem by importing more workers through immigration. That's why there will surely be an amnesty soon, we need more tax revenue to shore up the Social Security system for the baby boomers entering retirement. Japan will need to do something similar, but they have a real problem with allowing people to immigrate.


if you have to pay
By surt on 6/24/2010 2:46:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
After all, if you have to pay citizens $1,800 USD a year to have a baby, that's a sign you're in pretty dire trouble.


In the US, we pay $1000 or more per child in tax credits.




RE: if you have to pay
By Mikescool on 6/25/2010 9:40:17 AM , Rating: 2
i believe this is excluding whatever tax credit they are getting.


scary
By Zingam on 6/24/2010 9:49:57 AM , Rating: 3
Wow! That looks scary! Are they trying to convince them or scare them off?




lame
By goku on 6/24/2010 10:05:50 AM , Rating: 2
Nothing wrong with population shrinkage, especially with a densely populated Japan..




Really?
By nafhan on 6/24/2010 10:09:41 AM , Rating: 2
This sounds like it would make me NOT want to have kids. Fortunately, I had two before someone forced a robot baby on me... Just weird.




Silly wabbits
By ARoyalF on 6/24/2010 11:20:41 AM , Rating: 2
What they need is a "stimulus " program! How about a gov't sponsored nationwide "nooner" extended lunch hour on Mondays? Oh, and pipe Issac Hayes to every females' phone/computer an hour prior to nooner time!




Useless unless....
By Icehearted on 6/25/2010 1:48:13 PM , Rating: 2
...it poops, whines, has temper tantrums when it doesn't get what it wants, requires tons of cash to be fed and clothed, disobeys you constantly, refuses to do it's homework/chores, leaves it's toys laying around for you to step on, attempts to flush a stuffed animal in the toilet, interrupts your romantic life, requires you be at home during most or all of your free time, attempts to play a pop-tart in the DVD player, pours bleach all over the carpet, brings home stray animals, breaks several valuables, publicly embarrasses you, and asks you sexually awkward questions.

If creepy robo-child doesn't do any of these things, this is false advertising.




Frozen Samurai, Cold Yank
By Calabros on 6/27/2010 4:30:37 AM , Rating: 2
in that table, US is just behind Japan :-)




FFS
By xler8r on 6/24/2010 9:38:56 AM , Rating: 1
Seriously, I have nothing against these people but it seems their culture has an over fascination with nonbiologicals.
I mean, there was that dude who got married to the dating game no his ruddy GameBoy. More examples are unnecessary I think. (And don't get me wrong, America is far from perfect too, lol).

After just watching the an episode from season 4 of BSG last night, I'm seeing similarities to the cylon who was pissed because he was stuck in a human body... some these people seem to want the opposite.




A Cheaper Solution
By xler8r on 6/24/2010 9:46:14 AM , Rating: 1
Buy a Tamagotchi, at least you can choose which color you want and they're ultra portable like a pico-projector!
Whats to lose!




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