The biennial International Robot Exhibition kicked off at the Tokyo Big Sight convention centre in Japan, with manufacturers displaying robots that can work with human workers on assembly lines and elsewhere, often tackling the most gruelling tasks.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. introduced its newest robot, which unlike bulky automatons, takes up only about the same space as a human worker.
The robot is able to perform conventional parts assembly, as well as do work that requires a high level of skill and precision, such as placing a soy sauce container the size of the tip of a finger in the right position in a lunchbox.
Industrial robot giant Fanuc Corp. showed off a green robot that demonstrated its lifting capacity by hefting a tire. According to Fanuc, the robot can carry materials weighing up to 35 kilograms, thereby reducing the physical burden on human workers on vehicle assembly lines.
Previously, industrial robots had to be kept in a fenced-off area for safety reasons. However, regulations were eased two years ago, enabling some robots to work right alongside humans if sufficient safety precautions are taken, such as robots being automatically shut down if they are touched by a human.
The deregulation has paved the way for the development of robots that can assist humans in work processes that used to depend entirely on manpower.
According to estimates by Nomura Research Institute Ltd., the tasks undertaken by about 49 percent of Japanese workers could be replaced by artificial intelligence and robots in 10 to 20 years.
Robots will not be confined to industrial factory floors. It is expected that they will also play a big role in the agricultural industry, where the aging working population is a growing concern.
Utsunomiya University and computer maker NEC Corp. displayed an agricultural robot that can select ripe strawberries and harvest them without touching the fruit.
At the booth of German industrial robot manufacturer Kuka, flower artist Takayuki Tanaka was seen creating a flower arrangement with a robot assistant, which put flowers handed to it by Tanaka in a position in line with the instructions.
Kokoro Co. displayed its “Actroid,” a life-size female android. Actroid’s natural humanlike body movements are the result of manipulating 50 or so cylinders inside the robot with air pressure.
An Acrid works at the reception desk of the Henn-na Hotel, a facility that opened in July inside the Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.
The International Robot Exhibition will run through 5 Dec.
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