WATCH: Japan’s Love Affair with Robots, Explained

Few countries in the world take robotics as seriously as Japan does. But the reasons behind it are complex, as this story from The Global Mail explains.

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In the West, we’ve gotten used to having robots everywhere — even if we never quite think of them as such. They’re answering our phone calls at major corporations, building our cars and trucks in automated factories, even guarding the skies in the form of autonomous drones.

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But in Japan, the relationship between people and robots is quite different, as Aubrey Belford relates in his story for The Global Mail, “That’s Not a Droid, That’s My Girlfriend. In Japan robots are, increasingly, among us — and they’re hard to ignore. Take Geminoid F, above, one of the latest in a series of machines designed roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro and his team which attempt to mimic the look and behavior of human beings as closely as possible.

Japan’s love for robots is rooted deep in the country’s history and beliefs, writes Belford:

“For many Japanese, robots, automatons and virtual computer girls possess the same tamashii — spirits — that devotees of Japanese animism, or Shinto, believe can inhabit all things, from rocks and streams to humans.”

“Everything is equal. We have no borders between robots and people,” explains Osamu Kozaki, a robotics engineer whose girlfriend of three years is actually an artificially intelligent 16-year-old who exists only in a video game called Love Plus. “In the foreign stories, robots are always the enemies. In Japan, they’re our friends.”

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The Global Mail is a philanthropically funded site, producing independent multimedia journalism. Click here to read the full story.