Japan takes another step in replacing humans with robots

Sep 15, 2010
The HRP-4 robot (left) walks beside its previous models during a press conference in Tsukuba, Japan. Its makers -- Kawada Industries and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology -- hope the new "slim athlete" model is a step towards a robot that can help ease greying Japan's looming labour shortage.

The replacement of humans by machines in the workplace took another step on Wednesday, as Japanese researchers unveiled a model they hope could lead to humanoid menial workers.

Its makers, Kawada Industries and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), hope the robot will be a step towards creating a model that can help ease greying Japan's looming labour shortage.

"We designed a working robot in the image of a lean but well-muscled track-and-field athlete," Noriyuki Kanehira, robotic systems manager at Kawada, told a news conference to unveil the blue-and-white "HRP-4."

Designed to help researchers develop models that could replace humans in repetitive manual labour, the latest "athlete" model in a near 10-year-old series updates the feminine, catwalk-strutting, karaoke-singing HRP-4C.

But the tone this time is altogether more serious, according to a joint statement from its developers.

"It is Japan's urgent task for the early 21st Century to develop robots that could carry out simple, repetitive works ... in a bid to complement the workforce in a country that is rapidly ageing with fewer and fewer children".

Standing at 151 centimetres (59 inches) tall, the robot in a demonstration Wednesday stood on one foot, twisted its waist, struck poses, walked in accordance to given voice commands and moved its head to track objects.

The HRP-4 boasts joints that move more freely than its predecessors and can run a range of separately-developed software applications, its makers said.

Kawada and AIST will start selling the to universities and research institutes in and abroad from January 2011.

The price tag for what is described as a "low cost" model is 26 million yen (306,000 dollars) each. Its creators hope to sell three-to-five units a year.

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User comments : 22

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CarolinaScotsman
1 / 5 (5) Sep 15, 2010
Japan keeps developing robots to do our work. Will they develop robots to pay our bills when we are all unemployeed?
Dhanne
2.5 / 5 (2) Sep 15, 2010
There is a video of that HRP-4 in Youtube: watch?v=uoSuETw68zc

The robot seems slightly improved from HRC-4C, but still it appears clumsy.
AceLepage
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2010
I checked out the video on YouTube. It has an impressive range of motions, and balance. But to be placed in the real world, I would like to see it fall down, and get back up again.
Yellowdart
3.9 / 5 (7) Sep 15, 2010
Japan keeps developing robots to do our work. Will they develop robots to pay our bills when we are all unemployeed?


False logic. Machines have never led to less jobs for humans. A robot wont either. It frees labor force up to do other jobs.
Newbeak
3 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2010
Japan needs advanced robots to care for their rapidly ageing population,which is not reproducing at replacement levels.
jwalkeriii
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2010
one step closer to cylon
finitesolutions
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2010
I am impressed. Correctly programmed they can replace a lot of humans. Probably they should start with the CEOs and politicians and not with workers.
googleplex
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2010
Clearly the mechanical tech is done for robotics. What is needed now are intellegent computers. This is forecast to be 2035 and 2045 (Kurzweil). Initially the computer "brain" will be stored outside the robot controlling it remotely. Eventually the size would reduce to internal brain.
There will be the risk of the tech falling into criminal hands although built in safe guards will mitigate the risk. Intellegent computers will revolutionize our life styles by freeing up the work week, perhaps from 5 days to 2 days or zero. The leissure industry will grow as a result.
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2010
Japan keeps developing robots to do our work. Will they develop robots to pay our bills when we are all unemployeed?


I bet laborers at the turn of the century thought the same thing about putting machines in factories. We can't stop progress because some people will be put out of jobs. People will adapt, be retrained, and a new market will emerge for them to move to.
trekgeek1
not rated yet Sep 16, 2010
I checked out the video on YouTube. It has an impressive range of motions, and balance. But to be placed in the real world, I would like to see it fall down, and get back up again.


An earlier model doing just that.

watch?v=1tiOs0vlJig&NR=1
MarkyMark
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2010
I am impressed. Correctly programmed they can replace a lot of humans. Probably they should start with the CEOs and politicians and not with workers.

And would probably do a much better job lol.
MarkyMark
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2010
Japan keeps developing robots to do our work. Will they develop robots to pay our bills when we are all unemployeed?

That would be cool, would free us to pursue other fields of work suck as art, philosophy and Reserch.
fossilator
2 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2010
Why not import foreign workers as other countries do? Is this a sign of xenophobia?
Noumenon
4.7 / 5 (47) Sep 16, 2010
Does't Japan have midgets?
maxcypher
not rated yet Sep 16, 2010
Save your money to buy your own robot, then send it out to do the job you're paid for while you live your life at home. Actually, the lack of usable, mobile intelligence might require that you initially guide your robot through tele-presence.
dsl5000
5 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2010
OMG it's going to be like star wars with droid wars! no more human casualties :) maybe that how Japan will get around with having no actual army lol.

In all seriousness though, it would be nice to have robots do jobs no one else would do. I.E. clean the trash from our freeways or just roads in general.

Like any mechanical creations, there will be people who will be trained to fix them = high tech jobs.

Then you might have third party groups who design clothes or accessories for them haha just like dressing up puppies :)
Newbeak
1 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2010
Why not import foreign workers as other countries do? Is this a sign of xenophobia?

It IS xenophobia. Japan has a long history of not accepting foreigners as citizens.
Noumenon
4.9 / 5 (45) Sep 19, 2010
That's doesn't mean it's xenophobia. They may have a rational and historically justified reason behind it.
Buyck
1 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2010
Look at the YOU-TUBE video:
http://www.youtub...uETw68zc

Its really crazy what they can do already!
georgejmyersjr
not rated yet Sep 20, 2010
When the "debacle" known as the Shoreham nuclear power plant, nearby where Nikola Tesla had his lab at Wardenclyffe (help it become a science museum) on Long Island, NY, went to 5% and its backup generator's crankshaft cracked and shut down, it was to be a testbed for the disassembly of nuclear power plants, a "learning" center. These robots, if they can getup after falling down, could certainly help in the dismantling. Perhaps getting to the "bottom" of the duplicated x-rays of welds story I've heard from there.
Bob_B
not rated yet Sep 21, 2010
Since Japan is in an economic depression they need jobs to be filled by humans rather than robots.

The mental state of many workers there leads to suicide - another form of depression - but the USA rates are climbing also.

Robots are cool, no doubt, but the population of the country is such that it makes no sense to replace that many workers. There is a real world limit to using robotic tools and automation.
Newbeak
not rated yet Sep 22, 2010
That's doesn't mean it's xenophobia. They may have a rational and historically justified reason behind it.

If you Google the subject,you will find that Japan is quite reticent to admit foreign workers.Japanese society is highly homogeneous,and they want it kept that way,although that may change because of a shrinking native Japanese population.

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