Q23Will robots increasingly provide a variety of services rather than just make things?

A23 Certainly. Already robots work in the area of disaster relief, entering dangerous locations to search for victims following such natural disasters as earthquakes and typhoons. Moreover, they also play a role in the areas of agriculture, marine-resource and space development, education, research, nursing care, rehabilitation support, walking support, meal support, surveillance, security and cleaning.

According to the Japan Robot Association, Japan's industrial robot market was worth about 600 billion yen in 1991, although after the bursting of the economic bubble there was a surplus in equipment and the market shrank. But by 2000, it had recovered and was worth 647.5 billion yen, before being impacted by the collapse of the U.S. IT bubble, which caused the market to fall again below 600 billion yen. However, in 2006 the market reached 710 billion yen and is expected to grow given that, with its graying society and fewer children, Japan's working society will diminish and the areas in which robots can be utilized thus expand.