Thursday, May 19, 2022

Japanese rail company builds giant Gundam-style robot to repair power lines

The West Japan Railway Company, also referred to as JR-West, is taking service robotics to a whole new level with a giant humanoid maintenance robot. The company is using Gundam-style robots for repairs and maintenance work on power lines or, as JR West puts it, “to improve productivity and safety.”

This Gundam-style robot torso mimics the arm and head motions of a human pilot, who sees through the robot’s eyes via VR goggles. With a giant barrel-chested torso mounted on a hydraulic crane arm, the robot is capable of lifting weights of up to 88 pounds (40 kg) to a height of 32 feet (9.7 meters). It will replace human workers in jobs that are considered to be risky for humans.

It is operated by a human pilot with the help of a VR headset and hand controls to move the long arms and hands. The human operator will receive feedback in the handles if an external force acts on the robot’s arms so as to be able to take appropriate action. It is mounted on a rail car with stabilizing legs and a crane that lifts the torso to the desired height.

The giant robot was developed by JR West in partnership with Human Machinery and Nippon Signal and is just a prototype for now. JR West is planning for a formal introduction to the workforce by early 2024. The robot will help take humans out of high-risk jobs involving electric lines and working at tremendous heights.

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