JAPANESE INDUSTRIAL GIANT Toshiba has unveiled what it claims is a "nuclear radiation proof" robot designed to enter highly radioactive locations such as damaged nuclear plants to find out what's happening inside.
The four-legged robot has been built to carry out investigative and recovery work in locations that are too risky for people to enter, such as Tokyo Electric Power's damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The new 65kg machine measures one metre tall and can carry another 20kg. It has a TV camera and dosimeter and can investigate the condition of nuclear power plants by remote-controlled operation.
"The multiple joints of its legs are controlled by a dedicated movement algorithm that enables the robot to walk on uneven surfaces, avoid obstacles and climb stairs, securing access into areas that [are] challenging to be reached by wheeled robots or crawlers," Toshiba said in a blog post.
"The robot also has a folding arm that can release a companion smaller robot that mounts a second camera."
This smaller robot can be launched from the main robot and positioned to take images of narrow places and any equipment behind them, and tubes and other places that are too small for the robot to enter. It is connected to the main robot via a cable.
Toshiba said that although the robot is just in the prototype stages, the company will continue research and development on the robot's capabilities and operation so as to enable it to position and install shielding, stop flows of water and remove obstacles.
However on the specifications sheet Toshiba said the battery in the robot lasts for only two hours, which doesn't really sound like very long considering that it will need to complete complex tasks. Nevertheless, the clever robot represents the growing Japanese interest in using robots to perform human tasks such as making food and doing factory work. µ
Pre-orders to begin on 9 September with release to follow on 16 September
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