Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Japanese robots can dance and ride bikes, but can they fix a nuclear reactor?

I saw a story today about how some special robots are being shipped from the USA to Japan to help regain control in the Fukushima nuclear reactors.  These handy robots can travel into the high level radiation environment to provide video feed, take measurements and even help clean up radioactive waste. Japan nuclear plant gets help from US robots

OK, a blog called "Pathteacher" has to comment on this story.  Whodathunk the USA would ever, ever export a robot to Japan?  Not me.  For cripes sake, in Japan there is a factory where robots build more robots.  There isn't a more robocentric culture or automation focused industry anywhere.  The fact that no Japanese company thought to engineer a robot specifically for performing dangerous work in hostile environments comes as a surprise to me.   Having to enlist the assistance of American-born robots must be difficult for many in Japan to accept and I'm not being flippant there. Its a matter of pride.

I will take the opportunity to point out some very cool Japanese robots that can do things other than clean up nuclear waste..

First, my favorite robot, the Sony QRIO robot. These can dance..

Then there is Murata Boy.  This handy robot can ride a bicycle.

Then finally, there is the Honda Asimo robot.  From the looks of it, this robot can climb up stairs without needing a handrail... or maybe not.    

I'm sure that now inspired to do so and with a design to mimic, some Japanese company will develop an even better robot for hazardous duty than the ones the US will send to assist in Fukushima.  It doesn't need to be able to dance or ride a bike or look like a stormtrooper for that matter, but it does need to be able to go up and down stairs.  To get to the emergency power generator in the basement.

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