Panasonic announces hair-washing robot

Panasonic has today announced a new 16-fingered robot which will wash your hair for you. It’s the excuse of the future, today: “I can’t come out. My robot’s washing my hair.”

It’s effectively a giant sink with two robotic arms. Users lie back in a reclining chair, making the whole thing take up a significant amount of space. Then the 16 robot fingers work their magic with as much dexterity as human fingers, Panasonic claims, which supposedly will give the perfect wash. To ensure the right amount of pressure is applied it also has a number of sensors which scan the shape and contours of the individual’s head.

The robot is currently only a prototype and will be unveiled at the International Home Care & Rehabilitation Exhibition in Tokyo next week, an event that Panasonic has strutted its stuff at before. Last year it showcased a robotic bed that could turn into a wheelchair.

Panasonic is touting this hair-washing robot as equally valuable for hospitals, but we think its real success will be with TechEye hackette Andrea Petrou who has promised to spend all her pennies on it if it can blow-dry too. Little does she know we’ve blown the year’s budget on jollies to and from Calais, “just in case” stocks get low.

It almost sounds too good to be true, but if new research from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) is anything to go by, the robotics industry is about to boom big time over the next few years. The IFR today forecast that robot sales will amount to $17 billion by 2013, while Panasonic alone is hoping its robotics business will be worth $1.2 billion by 2015.

There are some potential problems for those of us with a Frankenstein complex. That’s the term Isaac Asimov used for those with a fear of robots. Science fiction has long taught us that robots will end up outsmarting us all and turning on us, resulting in either our enslavement or extermination. Another possibility is we will be harvested for power and energy as with the real world Matrix.  

Washing our hair for us isn’t quite the same as “kill all humans” – it’s close – but we wonder what happens when the robot decides you need a little trim as well.

Robots are being designed to fulfil household tasks, such as vacuuming and sweeping the floor, and it’s probably only a matter of time before you say “Honey, I’m home” as your robot cooks your meal and tells you off for not doing more around the house. For now, however, we’re a little wary of going near something with that many fingers.