The West Japan Rail Company has released a video of its new humanoid heavy equipment robot. Mounted at the end of a crane, this gundam-style robot torso mimics the arm and head motions of a real-life human pilot, who sees through the robot’s eyes using VR goggles.
According to the company’s press release, the primary objective is “to improve productivity and safety,” which will allow workers to lift and naturally manipulate heavy equipment around the rail system without exposing them to the risk of electric shocks or even falling.
The robot’s massive torso is mounted to a hydraulic crane arm, which allows it to ride around the rail system on a specially braced rail car. This lets it put down stabilizing legs when it’s time to work.
The set of VR goggles that’s worn by a human pilot are motion-tracked to control the movements of a Wall-E-style head with stereo vision. By gripping a pair of handles, the pilot is able to swiftly move the robot’s arms and hands. If there occurs to be an external force like a weight that moves the robot’s arms, this motion will be reflected back to the pilot’s controls.
Gun-damn, that’s cool
The video above shows the robot lifting and positioning few reasonably sizable components and cleaning overhead rail structures with a special multi-angle brush. It grips all of these tools in what appears to be a relatively simply clamp-like “hands,” that displays a reasonable degree of dexterity, albeit operating at a slow speed.
Any attempt to make the robot appear humanoid would probably make people think it doesn’t work as well as it could. In this case, it makes sense because the pilot can quickly gain a kinetic feel by operating the robot. This is because the arms and head are in familiar places and relative to one another.
The West Japan Rail is developing the machine in partnership with Human Machinery co. And Nippon Signal co.