Today I want to talk about another interesting aspect of Japanese society: Talking machines.
Let me start with some examples:
- Elevators: Besides the usual ‘ting’ sound of an elevator when it stops at a particular floor, I noticed that sometimes the elevators spits out proper Japanese phrases: e.g. after you call the elevator and it takes too much time to reach your floor, it will ask for your apology by saying ‘Omatase-shimashita’ after you step into the elevator. Or if you forget to press the button to the floor you want to go to, it will remind you by saying ‘Please press the button to the floor where you want to go’. Or sometimes, at public places like metro stations, the elevators are even more verbal; They announce each of its actions: Like before going down it will say ‘I will go down’ or when going up ‘I will go up’.
2. Vehicles: Some vehicles, especially vehicles like Trash collecting vans, ambulances, fire brigades also announce their actions before they do it. e.g. I often hear trash collecting vans in the morning say, ‘I will turn left. Please be careful’ when it takes a left turn.
3. Washing Machines: When the washing machine cycle has finished running it verbally announces that the washing cycle has finished. But my washing machine just makes a few beeps when the washing cycle has finished.
4. Bathtubs: Almost every Japanese house has a bathtub. Most Japanese people take a bath at night in the bathtubs (They do not bath in the morning). There is an electronic control panel attached near the bathtubs. Pressing a button on the panel starts filling the hot water in the bathtub. It takes about 10–15 minutes for the bathtub to fill. After it is filled the panel says, ‘Bathtub is ready’. Or if you press the button to increase water temperature it gives verbal feedback: ‘The water will become hotter’
5. Public Toilets: Near the entrance of public toilets at many places, one can hear a voice guiding towards the exact location of the toilet. e.g. it says, ‘the ladies toilet is towards the left side and the men’s toilet is on the right hand side’.
6. Under repair machines/places: e.g. when an escalator is undergoing some repair, they install a speaker nearby which continuously repeats on loop: ‘The escalator is undergoing repair work. Please be careful of your footsteps’
7. Sounds of chirping of a bird when the pedestrian green light is on.
These are some of the examples I could remember where machines/places in Japan talk. I am sure there are many more examples.
I can think of several reasons why these machines talk:
- About 30% of the Japanese society is aged 65 years old and above. Old people need more guidance when going about their life.
- Safety in Japan is really considered a very high priority. That is why the garbage truck announces that it is making a turn when it does so.
- To make things more accessible for differently abled people like visually impaired people.
And I find most things in Japan are very well designed.
I think this good design-of-things highlight the kindness of Japanese people.
Japan is a country with not many social problems. But probably the biggest social issue of Japan is how to take care of the ageing society. Because of this they have implemented such solutions. Many other countries including India will probably face similar problems in the future. At that time such solutions might be helpful.
I don’t know if machines talk in other countries and I also don’t remember talking machines in India. Do comment if you have heard talking machines elsewhere.