Japan is already a robotics powerhouse. Abe wants more and has called for a "robotics revolution." His government launched a five-year push to deepen the use of intelligent machines in manufacturing, supply chains, construction and health care, while expanding the robotics markets from 660 billion yen ($US5.5 billion) to 2.4 trillion yen by 2020.
"The labour shortage is such an acute issue that companies have no choice but to boost efficiency," says Hajime Shoji, the head of the Asia-Pacific technology practice at Boston Consulting Group. "Growth potential is huge." By 2025, robots could shave 25 percent off of factory labour costs in Japan, according to the consulting firm.
Japan has been a leader in factory robots, especially in the car industry, for decades. Now, with China and South Korea making automated machines of their own, the new focus is on service robots.
Getting costs down is key to expanding the use of service robots. They could assist workers at nursing homes, however costs are still high.
"We want to bring down the cost of a robot to 100,000 yen per unit, but it still costs 500,000 or a million yen," Kentaro Okamoto, who works on robot-related projects at the economy ministry.
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