Big in Japan: Robots Give the Best Facials

Let’s be real for a second – with 100 hour-plus work weeks, crowded city streets, cramped apartments and a frightening absence of vacation days, sometimes it can be really tough to be Japanese.

Sushi, green tea, sake and cherry blossoms aside, modern Japan can be an extremely lonely and isolating place.

Fortunately, the Japanese have their own series of stress relieving rituals to take the edge off. From bathing in hot springs and walking in the park to drinking a hot carafe of sake or dining with friends, the Japanese are masters at finding their own personal slice of zen.

Of course, nothing soothes the mind and relieves your tension like a good facial, which is why the Japanese love to head to the spa after work. Since a good masseuse can be hard to find, the Japanese think nothing of spending their hard-earned yen on a quality facial.

With that said, it may be only a matter of time before tipping your masseuse isn’t necessary, especially since the new Waseda Asahi Oral Rehabilitation Robot 1 or WAO-1 robot probably gives the best facials you’ve ever had.

Early this week, researchers at Tokyo’s Waseda University unveiled their rather frightening looking robot to the general public. With two steel arms connected by a spidery web of cables and wires, WAO-1 will soon be deployed to hospitals and spas across the country.

Although Japan already has some incredibly advanced massage chairs, the facial bone structure is much more fragile than the back and spine. As a result, engineers needed to start afresh and create a new type of technology.

According to project leader Atsuo Takanishi, “The robot’s arms are fitted with ceramic spheres the size of golf balls, and the spheres roll over the skin. The arms’ movements are controlled by a complex set of algorithms designed to emulate massages, while six sensors at the base of the arms measure and adjust the pressure applied by the spheres.”

Originally designed to give deep tissue therapeutic facial massages, WAO-1 was intended to help patients with jaw-related medical problems. However, after another research team member, Ken Nishimura, said the robot could be adjusted to give beauty and relaxation massages, everything changed.

“This technology can be applied very widely,” Nishimura said. “I’m looking forward to a time when this robot will give beauty facials at spas.”

Currently, robots are not uncommon in high-class spas in Tokyo. At present, there are already robots that shampoo and rinse your hair, though it’s probably going to be some time before you can count on a robot to give you a good hair cut or a close shave!

For more information on the future of elder care, check out my prior posting on how Japanese Robots Will Care of Us When We’re Old.

For more information on the crazy robots coming to a future near you, check out my prior posting on how Japanese Robots Will Take Over the World.

** Photos Courtesy of the Associated Press (AP) **