Automata – Japan’s Ancient Mechanical Pals
Japan’s the world’s largest producer of robots. It is a culture fascinated by these mechanical humanoids, Gundam, Astro Boy, Mega Man. These guys usually get showered in with affection, while in the West, human-like robots tend to freak people out. So what’s the cause of this Japanese robo-lovefest?
Kazuyoshi Suzuki wrote an article on the use of automata (self-operating machines) way back in the Edo period. These dolls did stuff like perform acrobatics and shoot arrows and most importantly serve tea. He suggests that these primitive wooden play things have influenced the Japanese perception of robots as pure helpful companions. So in Japan the robot brings to mind a cute little Astro kid fighting for acceptance and in the West, people think of a silver skeleton with glowing red eyes that came back from the future to kill your moms.
Here’s a video of the Tea serving automaton:
The article: http://sciencelinks.jp/content/view/761/282/