NATIONAL POST (CANADA) – 'It's HUGE in Asia'
Domo Arigato Mr Roboto
With the world's most rapidly ageing population and a declining birth rate, Japan's industrial sector is busy creating appliances to make life more livable for the increasing number of people in their August years. In addition to robots designed for use in nursing homes -- a response to the labour shortage in that sector -- robot suits that help the aged stay mobile and metre-tall speaking robots that act as parent-sitters for grown-up children are some of the items in production. Some of these elder-care devices have already gone mainstream. An automatic washing device, manufactured initially for use in nursing homes, is now finding its place in salons and spas. Just hop into the clamshell-like machine at the Piu Bello Spa in downtown Tokyo, for example, and let Santelubain 999 work its magic. It offers up a scented body shampoo and shower, with infrared steam and sound/aromatherapy. It will also apply a seaweed pack and finish off the treatment with a relaxing body-lotion massage. With almost half of the world's robot population living in Japan and recognizing, perhaps, that they are fast becoming part of Japanese culture, METI -- the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry -- will be accepting nominations for Robot of the Year starting in July. There are several categories: industrial robots (those used in painting and welding); service robots (cleaning, security, elder-care); special-environment robots (rescue); and robots developed by start-up firms. There is, of course, a grand prize as well -- one can imagine that Santelubain 999 is favoured to win. Karmel Kingan, National Post
When Good Teeth Go Bad
Thailand is The Land of Smiles, but this is more than a touristy reference to the sunny disposition of its people. Smiles are an important part of Thai culture. According to Henry Holmes and Suchada Tangtongtavy in their book, Working With The Thais: A Guide to Managing in Thailand, there are 13 different ways to smile over there, depending on the social situation. A smile (yim in Thai) can range from the "I'm so happy I'm crying" smile (yim thang nam taa), the stiff "I don't get the joke" smile (fuen yim), the "I told you so" smile (yim yaw), the triumphal grin (yim cheua-cheuan), to the "smile though your heart is breaking" (yim mai awk).
Perhaps, then, it is not surprising, that an odd trend was loosed on Thailand's youth about two years ago, particularly among girls. Fake orthodontic braces were the hottest have-to-have, and the demand created a growth industry for dentists, as well as dentist wannabes and manufacturers of DIY fake-braces kits. Coming in an assortment of colours to match one's mood, fake braces were considered fashionable as well as a sign of affluence. Soon Thai health authorities were investigating whether they could damage teeth or pose other health risks.
They could indeed. Not only was there a danger of the braces being swallowed, but the wiring in some was found to contain lead. Earlier this year, the government put a stop to the fad. Retailers face fines of up to 50,000 baht and six months in jail. Manufacturers and importers face punishment twice as severe. Yim yaw.
© National Post 2006
If Only the CRTC Cared...
Last summer, within weeks of Carrie Underwood's crowning as American Idol 4, China was in the midst of crowning one of its own. China's version of Idol is officially called Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Super Girl Contest -- and its unprecedented popularity has China's leadership concerned. The contest became a cultural phenomenon in its second season; garnering a reported 400 million viewers for the finale, which saw 21-year-old Li Yuchun from Sichuan province, who sang The Cranberries hit Zombie, crowned Super Girl. She garnered almost half of the eight million "text messages of support" (don't call them votes). The director of the science, education, culture, health and sport commission of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference had this to say in response: "Behind the Super Girls entertainment lies poison for the youth. Take a look at the youth who are following the Super Girls now. See what state of mind they are in, what direction they are headed. Take a look at how the audiences are watching this program, and you'll find that, amid unthinking laughter, people have been corrupted." The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) has rejected the application from the broadcaster, Hunan TV, to hold a Super Boy contest, and has drawn up guidelines for subsequent Super Girl shows, limiting the size of joining cities and delaying real-time broadcasting. Seems China's leaders don't want anyone takin' it to the streets' (Idol 5 Taylor Hicks' new hit single), or for that matter, asking Jesus to take the wheel (Idol 4 Carrie Underwood's current hit).
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