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Feature: Robots to the Rescue


Japan’s robots can help rescue survivors and clear debris after disasters. Plus, they build cars and entertain youngsters. Can they care for the old and the sick? — an article from ASEE’s April 2009 issue of Prism magazine, by Lucille Craft

KITAKYUSHU CITY, JAPAN – Earthquake evacuations will never be the same. Meet T-53 Enryu®, a fearsome, 11-foot-tall robot with giant, multi-jointed arms and the growl of a tractor. Designed to rescue trapped victims, this ambidextrous creature can move into a 1bdevastated zone and pick up and toss aside heavy wooden blocks and other large debris like so many chopsticks.

Japan is Cool Robot Central. As fast as you can say, “Everything is go, Astro Boy!” a new model joins a staggering array of robots that play musical instruments, calm frazzled motorists, and gracefully two-step through TV commercials. There are robots that play soccer, dance, climb trees, and swim, not to mention all the functions they perform on auto assembly lines. Osaka University Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro has even spawned his own eerily lifelike, silicone-skinned twin.con-fea-03-image03

Now, the nation that has long dominated industrial robotics is grappling with ways robots can tackle society’s other challenges. One is relieving firefighters of heavy-lifting burdens after an earthquake, thereby speeding rescues. Yet a more complicated problem looms, that of how Japan’s shrinking workforce will care for a growing elderly population.

Read the entire article in Prism online

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