Japan's new nuclear-proof robot gets stage fright

YOKOHAMA, Japan Wed Nov 21, 2012 5:39am EST

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YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) - A Japanese robot designed to withstand high levels of radiation and extreme heat at damaged nuclear plants such as Fukushima froze on Wednesday on its first public demonstration.

Despite being home to the largest number of industrial robots in the world, Japan did not have a device capable of entering the damaged Fukushima nuclear facility after last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Instead, Japan brought in U.S. robots to survey the extent of the damage inside the reactor buildings.

Toshiba Corp unveiled Japan's own nuclear-proof robot on Wednesday, a four-legged device able to carry up to 20 kg of equipment and capable of lifting itself up if it falls over on uneven surfaces and amid debris.

During the demonstration, the robot experienced a case of stage fright. The shuffling Tetrapod locked up and suddenly froze after it tried to balance itself, forcing technicians to carry it away.

It is the second time such Japanese robotic technology has experienced problems. Last October, a crawling robot developed by the Chiba Institute of Technology lost connection with operators and was abandoned inside Fukushima's No. 2 reactor building.

(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Nick Macfie)

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Comments (2)
Ralphooo wrote:
This could get really tedious. They will need to send in some tough new undertaker robots to clear out the old wrecked robots. Eventually, after a few cycles of robot pileup and robot removal, the machines might be able to get some actual work done inside the reactor.

On the bright side, by that time — after investing countless trillions of money units — the Japanese will have built some really great robots that can do almost anything. This is similar to how war advances technology. At such critical moments, there is no choice but to proceed full speed ahead with innovations, regardless of the cost.

Nov 21, 2012 10:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
AZWarrior wrote:
Embarrassing to be sure, but cutting edge technology often ends up being the “bleeding edge”. If we never attempt great things, perhaps we would fail less often.

Nov 24, 2012 6:35pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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