Humanoid plant workers wow crowds at iRex

At the 2011 International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, power-lifting bots mix it up with the latest humanoids.

Luring huge crowds, Kawada Industries' Nextage assembly bots handle parts at iRex 2011 in Tokyo. Tim Hornyak

TOKYO--Robots were out in force in Tokyo today as the International Robot Exhibition (iRex) kicked off with sophisticated humanoid industrial robots thrilling visitors.

With nearly 300 companies and groups taking part, iRex 2011 has the usual large-footprint booths by major robot makers like Fanuc and Yaskawa. With the power shortages that followed the March 11 earthquake and tsunamis, energy savings is a prominent theme, as it was at the Ceatec 2011 high-tech show here last month.

Particularly awesome was a demo of Nextage industrial robots by Kawada Industries, known for its work on the HRP series of humanoids as well as its mainline of bridge building.

The 20 kg (44 pound) assembly-line droid has six-jointed arms as well as cameras in its eyes and hands. It was also shown off at iRex 2009 , though sales began recently. It's expected to use the same tools as humans while working in production cells; a research version called Hiro is also available.

Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), which co-developed the HRP, was exhibiting the latest female version of the robot, the HRP-4C Miim. In a new video, below, HRP-4C struts her stuff with a more swinging, humanlike gait and longer strides.

Subaru and Sumitomo, meanwhile, were showing off a recently developed vacuuming robot that can halve the time needed to clean high-rise buildings when working in conjunction with human workers. The tall bot has a touch-panel control as well as obstacle sensors and can fit into narrow spaces.

Check out more pics from iRex 2011 in our photo gallery.


 

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