Given Japan's rapidly aging population, efforts are accelerating to devise more practical and affordable robots to help seniors handle daily tasks, as well as to cope with a projected shortage of caregivers.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has allocated ¥2.39 billion in the fiscal 2013 budget to assist the development of such robots and increase their use. Last month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry selected 24 companies that will receive subsidies covering between half and two-thirds of the costs of developing what METI calls "nursing care robot equipment."

The tasks designated for these robots include helping the elderly move between rooms in care centers, assisting with their toilet needs and tracking those prone to wandering off.