A Japanese railway company is currently using a giant humanoid robot to carry out maintenance operations on high-voltage lines. According to the company, the robot would reduce work accidents while solving the problem of a lack of qualified personnel.
A humanoid maintenance robot
A humanoid robot is a robot that looks human. There are already a lot of them, and research in this area is actively continuing. In 2021, Tesla had for example presented a humanoid robot whose mission is to support humans at work, especially for the most repetitive and dangerous tasks. In a tweet on April 15, 2022, the Japanese railway company West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) revealed its giant humanoid robot.
As shown in the images, the robot is used to carry out maintenance operations on high voltage lines. The machine itself sits at the end of a hydraulic crane. According to those responsible for the project, the robot can reach its target at a height of ten meters and lift around 40 kg using its claws.
VR headset and haptic controllers
While the specter of the replacement of humans by robots at work haunts many people, the company JR West is reassuring. She says that the objective of using this robot is to save 30% of labor, at a time when qualified personnel for this type of task is becoming increasingly rare. It’s also about reducing workplace accidents like falls and dumps.
The machine is still being tested. In addition, the latter cannot operate alone and therefore requires the presence of human personnel. In order to control the robot, the operator sits in a cabin and wears a virtual reality headset and haptic joysticks to see with the robot’s eyes while guiding its movements. Thus, the operator is in no danger, because he does not need to leave his isolated cabin to carry out operations at several meters in height.
No one knows if there will ever be a standalone version, but in any case, the project managers are talking about large-scale marketing from 2024 if the current tests are satisfactory. At a time when in the land of the rising sun, giant robot fights are very publicized, the JR West robot could be emulated.