How Fukushima changed robotics and the Japanese awakened the industry

In March 2011, in Japan swept the catastrophic earthquake that triggered a terrible tsunami. Killed thousands of people and damage billions of dollars given to understand that when disaster strikes, it is one of the worst in modern history. For several weeks the world’s eyes have been chained to a nuclear power plant “Fukushima Daiichi”. Its security systems are unable to cope with the damage caused by the tsunami, and there was a chance that a catastrophic reactor meltdown would spread radiation into several countries as it was in Chernobyl in the 1980-ies. A heroic attempt to save the reactor, including the discharge of sea water in its core, helped to prevent a major catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of people are still evacuated from the disaster area, and restoring infrastructure and clearing would require hundreds of billions of dollars and many years.

Since the radiation are extremely dangerous for people, a natural solution in the course of the disaster at Fukushima was to send robots to monitor radiation levels and attempts to start the cleaning process. But deep in the heart of the reactor core are optimistic about technology are faced with an obstacle that did not help them to overcome even optimism. Radiation fried the scheme are sent to the robots, even those built specifically to cope with the disaster at Fukushima. The nuclear station was slowly turning into a graveyard of robots. Although some of them managed to measure the radiation level around the station – and recently a robot was able to find the expanded uranium fuel in the heart of the disaster – and only hope that they will be able to play an important role in the sweep station began to fade.

In the neon heart of Tokyo, Shibuya at night the lights Shine brighter than the daylight sun. In the karaoke booths on the twelfth floor – because everything is on the twelfth floor – the businessmen bawling of popular songs. This place may seem like the most artificial on Earth; all the senses would be blinded by technical optimism. Usually images of this place symbolize the futurism and modernity.

Japan has long been famous for its love for technology of the future. Now, for example, technology giant under the leadership of Softbank founder Masayoshi Sona has invested billions in the technological future of the country, including plans for the world’s largest solar farm.

When Google sold Boston Dynamics in 2017, Softbank added it to his portfolio, along with famous robots Nao and Pepper. Some may decide that Sleep is gambling with robotics, as taken, in which even Google has not succeeded, but this man lost almost everything in the collapse of the dot-com in the 2000s. the fact that even this crash did not take his optimism, and his faith in technology speak for themselves. But how long will it last?

The failure of the Japanese robots in an attempt to cope with the consequences of the Fukushima disaster has generated a crisis in the industry. Disasters like this are like the last exam for robots. If robots are unable to help people in extreme conditions, what’s their point? First, the production of humanoid robot will be very expensive, and the robot will be much less capable than a man. The creation of such a robot would not be economically viable. Far better to build a robot that will do the job too dangerous for humans. But as shown by Fukushima, robots, even one of the most advanced Nations in the world are not ready to replace people in the most difficult conditions.

Nowhere is this crisis felt more than a Honda. The company developed ASIMO, which surprised the world in 2000, and continues to develop robots. But despite all the technological advances, Honda knew that ASIMO is too unreliable for the real world.

What Fukushima has caused changes in the approach to Honda robotics. Two years after the disaster it became known that Honda is developing a robot for disaster, and in October 2017, the public was first introduced its prototype. Remarkably, the creators decided not to give the robot dexterous hand, and instead provided him with remote-controlled instruments, which by necessity will be used in emergency conditions.

This shift from the creation of humanoid robots for entertainment, like ASIMO to create a useful rescue robots reverberated around the world.

Also in 2015, inspired (so to speak) the disaster at Fukushima and the lack of operational robots DARPA experienced humanoid robots in different conditions, which may be useful in cases of accident or distress. Such robots must, for example, drive cars, open doors and climb stairs. ATLAS from Boston Dynamics, the Korean HUBO and CHIMP have already shown what they are capable when needed – for example, to get up after a fall. It just sounds funny – looks much more interesting.

However, the DARPA Robotics Challenge showed us how far the robots to be at least somewhat useful to us, not to mention to surpass us in many ways. Many robots need a watch to perform simple tasks such as climbing stairs. Even to teach the robot to cross the threshold was a challenge.

Fukushima might have started a restructuring in a futuristic Japan, but before robots can enter our daily life, they will have to prove their value (and usefulness). Robots-drones, meanwhile, is already quite a good job with the observation in the disaster. But to build a robot that can be driven on land, is quite another matter.

The creation of a humanoid robot is expensive. If these expensive machines (the account can go for millions of dollars) will not be able to help in a crisis, people will start to question the very necessity of investing in robotics. This could exacerbate the crisis of confidence among the Japanese robots, which begin to rely on robots as a solution to the aging crisis. The Japanese government has already invested $ 44 million to the development of robots.

But if the robots can not pass the exam, they will have serious issues. The Akihabara district of Tokyo, you can see all kinds of bright, shiny robot toys, dancing, sell, entertain crowds of people from all over the world. However, the robots should be partners, helpers, rescuers.

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