Japan’s latest home robot isn’t useful — it’s designed to be loved

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A pair of Lovot robots at their unveiling this week. Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

It’s not been a great year for home robots, with two high-profile projects — Jibo and Kuri — shuttering operations. But a new competitor from Japan is entering the market with a different approach. Lovot, created by Kaname Hayashi, a former developer of the humanoid robot Pepper, is a furry, foot-and-a-half-high creation that’s designed only to be loved.

“This robot won’t do any of your work. In fact, it might just get in the way,” Hayashi told Bloomberg. “Everything about this robot is designed to create attachment.”

Lovot looks a lot like an upgraded Furby. It has minimal motor function (it can’t fetch you a beer or hoover your kitchen) but interacts with users with a pair of lively eyes and wordless chirping noises. It has a trio of wheels for scooting around your home, and a pair of flippers that it can use to show surprise, affection, or even beg to be picked up.

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Watch this humanoid robot install drywall

The HRP-5P is a humanoid robot from Japan’s Advanced Industrial Science and Technology institute that can perform common construction tasks including — as we see above — install drywall.

HRP-5P — maybe we can call it Herb? — uses environmental measurement, object detection and motion planning to perform various tasks. In this video we see it use small hooks to grab the wallboard and slide it off onto the floor. Then, with a bit of maneuvering, it’s able to place the board against the joists and drill them in place.

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Scientists just made human egg cells from human blood for the first time

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It’s the first step toward being able to mass produce human eggs using other people’s body tissues or blood.

Scientists in Japan have used human blood to successfully create immature human egg cells in a lab for the first time, according to new research published Thursday in Science. The work is a major breakthrough in stem cell research and may lead the way to babies that can be created in a lab using the body tissues or blood of their relatives.

Mitinori Saitou, a biologist at Kyoto University who contributed to this pioneering research, managed to produce mouse eggs and sperm from stem cells back in 2012 and used them to breed healthy baby mice. It was the first time that eggs were created from embryonic stem cells.

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Japan just became the first country to deploy rovers on an asteroid

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The Hayabusa 2 mission is visiting an asteroid 200 million miles from Earth to collect samples. The mission profile involves a lot of robots, bullets, and explosives.

In 2014, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft on a four year journey to Ryugu, an asteroid nearly 200 million miles from Earth. The spacecraft has been in orbit around the asteroid since June and early Friday morning dispatched two rovers to the asteroid’s surface.

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Nestlé is using DNA to create personalized diets in Japan

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The world’s largest food company is experimenting with people’s DNA to build and sell personalized nutrition plans that, it says, will extend lifespans and keep people healthy.

Nestlé is rolling out these new products in Japan first. Some 100,000 people are taking part in a company program there that gives consumers a kit to collect their DNA at home. The program also encourages them to use an app to post pictures of what they’re eating. Nestlé then recommends dietary changes and supplies specialized supplements that can be sprinkled on or mixed into a variety of food products, including teas, according to Bloomberg.

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The rise of the computer-generated celebrity

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A new generation of celebrities is selling out concerts, starring in commercials, and amassing huge Instagram followings. But none of them exist—corporeally, anyway. In recent years, and starting in Japan, technology and social media have spawned a digital demimonde of computer-generated stars, ranging from fake musicians and models to company mascots who appear as holograms (like Betty Crocker, with AI). When they’re not entertaining you, they’re trying to convince you of their humanity, and even the more cartoonish among them have fleshed-out personalities. In a way, it’s the purest expression of celebrity, which has always been an elaborate illusion. CGI starlets, though, “are much easier to control,” says Ryan Detert, CEO of the branding firm Influential. Except when they misbehave.

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The future of surveillance: Watch this A.I. security camera spot a shoplifter

Whether it is facial recognition tech that is (allegedly) able to pick a wanted criminal out of a crowd of thousands or aerial drones which use image recognition smarts to predict fights before they take place, there is no doubt that we are living through a major paradigm shift for automated surveillance technology. But this kind of tech can have more grounded, everyday applications, too — like helping prevent shoplifters stealing goods from their local mom-and-pop corner store.

That is something seemingly demonstrated by a new artificial intelligence security camera called the “A.I. Guardman,” built by Japanese telecommunication company NTT East and startup Earth Eyes Corp. The camera uses a special pose detection system to identify behavior it deems to be suspicious. In the event that this kind of behavior is spotted, it sends an alert to the store owner’s smartphone, allowing them to take action.

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This beautiful golden chamber contains water so pure it can dissolve metal

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It can detect dying stars.

Hidden 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) under Mount Ikeno in Japan is a place that looks like a supervillain’s dream.

Super-Kamiokande (or “Super-K” as it’s sometimes referred to) is a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which travel through space and pass through solid matter as though it were air.

Studying these particles is helping scientists detect dying stars and learn more about the universe. Business Insider spoke to three scientists about how the giant gold chamber works – and the dangers of conducting experiments inside it.

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The world is running out of Japanese people

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Japan is shrinking. Fast.

The health ministry recently announced that only 946,060 babies were born in Japan in 2017, the fewest births since official statistics began in 1899. At the same time, 1,340,433 Japanese people died last year. This means that the non-immigrant population declined by nearly 400,000 people.

It’s an astonishing shift. The Japanese population grew steadily throughout the 20th century, from around 44 million in 1900 to 128 million in 2000. The gains were primarily due to increased life expectancy, but also buoyed by families that typically had at least two children. But beginning in the late 1970s, birth rates crashed. While the average Japanese woman had 2.1 kids in the 1970s, today, they only have about 1.4—far lower than in comparably wealthy countries like the US and Sweden.

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Japan approves first trials of stem cell-based heart treatment

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iPS procedure raises hopes for alternative to donations and artificial organs

TOKYO — Japan is set to host the world’s first clinical trials involving the use of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to treat heart failure.

A special health ministry panel on Wednesday gave Osaka University the green light to carry out the study, pending final authorization from the health minister. This would be the second instance of using iPS-derived cells for disease treatment in Japan, after groundbreaking trials involving retinal cells launched in 2014.

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A massive, ‘semi-infinite’ trove of rare-earth metals has been found in Japan

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Researchers have found hundreds of years’ worth of rare-earth materials underneath Japanese waters — enough to supply to the world on a “semi-infinite basis,” according to a study published in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports.

Rare-earth metals are crucial in the making of high-tech products such as electric vehicles and batteries, and most of the world has relied on China for almost all of its needs.

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Japan’s prisons area haven for elderly women

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Lonely seniors are shoplifting in search of the community and stability of jail.

Every aging society faces distinct challenges. But Japan, with the world’s oldest population (27.3 percent of its citizens are 65 or older, almost twice the share in the U.S.), has been dealing with one it didn’t foresee: senior crime. Complaints and arrests involving elderly people, and women in particular, are taking place at rates above those of any other demographic group. Almost 1 in 5 women in Japanese prisons is a senior. Their crimes are usually minor—9 in 10 senior women who’ve been convicted were found guilty of shoplifting.

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