Japan takes another step in replacing humans with robots
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.
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.
(c) 2010 AFP