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Japan’s robotics market sees boom amid pandemic


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A double-arm prototype robot sits during a media preview hosted by Hitachi Transport System Ltd. at a warehouse in Noda, Chiba Prefecture. The robotics market is expected to grow from around ¥1 trillion in 2010 to some ¥10 trillion in 2035, according to an estimate by the industry ministry. | BLOOMBERG

Japan’s robotics market is booming thanks to the need to avoid in-person contact amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demand for robotics was led by manufacturers before the pandemic, but customers have been increasing among service businesses such as logistics and medical firms.


The surge in robotics demand has led to a boost in manufacturers’ investment in advanced technologies such as image processing and artificial intelligence to achieve remote control services.

The robotics market is expected to grow from around ¥1 trillion in 2010 to some ¥10 trillion in 2035, according to an estimate by the industry ministry.

In particular, demand from the service sector is likely to grow over 13-fold, overtaking that for factory automation equipment.

In May, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. and Sony Group Corp. said they would set up a joint company to develop remote robot control technology.

The tie-up will utilize Kawasaki Heavy’s expertise in industrial robots and Sony’s sensor and image processing technology.

The two companies believe that demand for automation and labor-saving will continue to grow with the spread of remote working.

The new company will start services for manufacturers next year, expanding its customer base to include logistics and medical services operators in the future.

Tokyo Electron Device Ltd. has developed a system that uses image processing technology to perform complex tasks such as picking and sorting irregularly shaped items.

The company recently set up a space at its office in Yokohama to develop and demonstrate the new vision robot system.

Hitachi Ltd. in April acquired Kyoto Robotics, an intelligent robotics startup. It plans to utilize the startup’s artificial intelligence and 3-D recognition technologies to automate warehouse work.

“Logistics have great room to grow,” a Hitachi official said.


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