Robots designed to deal with nuclear accidents await duty in Europe while Japan asks: Where are ours? – The Washington Post

Inside a nondescript warehouse south of Mannheim, Germany, a dozen robots, ranging in size from a low-slung inspection bot no bigger than a toy wagon to a 22-ton Caterpillar excavator, stand ready to respond to a nuclear emergency. With their electronics hardened to withstand radiation, the versatile machines can handle fuel rods as well as monitor doses that would kill a human engineer.A similar robotic quick-response squad is housed near the Chinon nuclear power plant in France.But in Japan, where the Fu­kushima Daiichi nuclear crisis drags into its third week, the question is: Where are the robots?The answer is disquieting, say Japan’s top roboticists. Instead of building robots that go where humans never could, this country renowned for its robotics expertise invested in machines that do things that humans can already do — like talk, dance, play the violin and preside over weddings.“The government believed this accident wouldn’t happen,” said Hirose Shigeo, a robotics researcher at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. “Most of the robot experts are concentrating on humanoid [robots] and home use.”“We should have focused on response and disaster-mitigation robots,” said Satoshi Tadokoro, who builds search-and-rescue robots at Tohoku University in Sendai. “The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry did not do that. The [power] companies did not do that. It is very strange and inappropriate.”

via Robots designed to deal with nuclear accidents await duty in Europe while Japan asks: Where are ours? – The Washington Post.

Well, at least they have plenty of robots that can dance to amuse people who are dying of cancer…

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