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Humanoid robot close to workplace reality in Japan

posted 25 Oct 2010, 05:53 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 25 Oct 2010, 05:56 ]
Japan's growing inventory of humanoid robots has been joined by a machine named HRP-4, designed to replace humans on production lines and factory floors. HRP-4 is the product of a joint venture between Japan's National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology and Kawada Industries. Rob Muir reports.
REUTERS / NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ADVANCED SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (AIST) - His name is HRP-4 and he's the state-of-the-art in humanoid robotics. He's light weight and stands five feet - or 150 centimetres - tall. He boasts 34 movable joints, with seven in each arm.

HRP-4's creators at Kawada Industries have designed him for manual labour, to do many of the jobs currently being performed by people in factories and on production lines.

 ASSISTANT MANAGER OF KAWADA INDUSTRIES ROBOTIC SYSTEMS DEPARTMENT KAZUHIKO AKACHI SAYING:

" In Japan's case, there is a shrinking graying society, and as such there will be a labor shortage. With that as a background, these robots could work in conjuction with humans."

Robots in factory settings are nothing new. Predecessors of the legless Hiro robot have been assembling semiconductors and cars for years, but with a quarter of Japan's population already 65 or older and the labor market about to be hit by a wave of retiring baby boomers, HRP-4 is being prrepared for a far more diverse working life.

) ASSISTANT MANAGER OF KAWADA INDUSTRIES ROBOTIC SYSTEMS DEPARTMENT KAZUHIKO AKACHI SAYING:

"If all the robot is doing is repeating the same simple task, then the specialized robots that already work on conveyor belt lines are sufficient. However if a robot is mobile and bipedal in addition to having a similar shape and ability of humans, then one robot could do work over a variety of different fields."

Not only that, but HRP-4 won't ask for a salary or complain about working conditions. For employers, his $320, 000 price tag may be a small price to pay.

Rob Muir, Reuters

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