Japan's Nedo, part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, is throwing a pile of cash at technology that it hopes will enable the country to build better bots over the next decade.

Perhaps creating legions of semi-intelligent and compliant drones is exactly the solution to Japan's desperately serious ageing problem.

The five-year, ¥1.8bn (about £8.3m) plan, which looks like an on-financial-steroids version of the AIST's Ucroa programme, is to encourage the development of 'next-generation' and service robots, as well as those that can work in challenging environments. Basically, it seems that Nedo wants to subsidise makers to network and update Japan's hilariously stupid toy bots so that they can actually do something. For example, looking after grumpy grandpa Tanaka, who doesn't like the idea of a Chinese or Filipino nurse applying ointment to his posterior. Or when Monju melts down again, son-of-R2-D2 can clean up the mess so the government doesn't have to call in liquidators.