This hair-washing robot, introduced by Panasonic at a public demonstration in Tokyo last week, is actually a pretty practical idea. Washing your hair involves a decent amount of small motor coordination and finger dexterity, things that people often lose when they have a spinal injury or other kinds of nerve damage. A hair-washing robot could offer those people a bit more independence when it comes to their daily routines. That's a good thing.
But the real reason I'm posting this here is to show you how easy it is to take research that is objectively beneficial, and make it sound deeply silly and frivolous. All you have to do is show that picture (which is a little funny looking already, right?) and frame the story from the perspective of privilege—the perspective of people who have no problems controlling the nerves in their hands and forget that not everybody shares that skill.
Why would anybody need a robot to wash their hair? Oh, those crazy Japanese and their robots! They should put that money into something really useful. Amiright?
The next time a politician or pundit tells you about "wacky" scientific research that isn't worth funding, remember the hair washing robot, and think about whether the research is really as silly as you're being lead to believe.
Image:REUTERS/Kim Kyung Hoon
Rod McCullom at Undark has a terrific overview of the perpetual “virtual lineup,” where half of all American adults “are enrolled in unregulated facial recognition networks used by state and local law enforcement agencies.”
It sure feels flat, right? (Life Noggin)
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Learning to code is a perfect way to grow your technical sophistication, and open up a host of new career options. But since most “learn to code” initiatives focus heavily on web development, it can be tough to find good resources for general-purpose computer science outside of a 4-year degree program. To get a broad […]