Japan to increase support for firms developing caregiver robots

JIJI

The government will step up support for companies developing caregiver robots with an eye on improving productivity in the field of elderly nursing care amid widespread labor shortages.

In its budget request for fiscal 2019, which begins next April, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to request that funds for such support be increased by about 20 percent from the previous year’s ¥1.1 billion, informed sources said.

The use of robots for providing help going to the toilet, walking and other assistance is expected to alleviate the physical burdens of care workers considerably and contribute to an easing of labor shortages in the industry.

Furthermore, the ministry aims to help drastically reduce their work logging care recipients’ health data, including blood pressure levels, by creating robots that automatically collect such data as they assist those in care.

An administrative work assistance system that automatically stores such data so it is better used in care services is also envisioned.

The system would have an artificial intelligence engine that analyzes recipients’ behavioral patterns so that more effective care plans will be drawn up for them.

Through the initiative, the ministry aims to nurture the caregiver robot sector into a growth engine for the Japanese economy.

The use of robots to collect personal health data is a relatively unexplored field, even among major U.S. technology firms that lead the gathering and AI-based analysis of big data such as consumers’ shopping histories, according to the sources.