Due to subsidies offered by Japan central and local governments, there has been increasing investment in R&D for care-giving robots. For example, 21 companies have engaged in the development of robotic care-giving devices particularly for use by Alzheimer disease patents, with Paro (personal robot) - developed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) - being a typical model, according to Digitimes Research.
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry categorizes care-giving robots into five main areas of application: for sitting-up and lying down (wearable/non-wearable); movement (indoor/outdoor); going to the bathroom; care given to people with dementia (organizations/homes); and bath taking. The government has set aside a subsidy budget of JPY2.55 billion (US$24.5 million) to encourage R&D focusing on care-giving robots in fiscal year 2014 (April 2014-March 2015), with two-thirds of the subsidies targeted for small- to medium-size businesses, Digitimes Research indicated. In addition, local governments have offered subsidies specifically for introduction of care-giving robots.
Among the application areas of care-giving robots, models specifically for use by Alzheimer disease patents account for the largest portion, including Paro developed by AIST, Papero R500 developed by NEC and Parlo developed by Fuji Soft. In particular, AIST has obtained a medical instrument license from the US Food and Drug Administration for Paro and has exported the model to more than 30 countries in the North America and Europe markets.
Sensors, driver systems and smart control systems are key technologies for care-giving robots, and Japan-based enterprises have had an international competitive advantage as they own more than 50% of US patents related to sensors and driver systems.
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