Two-armed robot takes on risky lab work

This modified assembly robot has been put to work in the lab, where it's handling dangerous materials to keep people out of harm's way.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
Mahoro mixes it up with its seven-jointed arms. Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

We've seen robot pharmacists before. Here's a robot lab technician whose speed might make "CSI" plots a little more believable.

Developed by automation giant Yaskawa and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), co-creator of the HRP series of humanoid robots, Mahoro is a two-armed droid that looks like a modified Yaskawa Motoman assembly robot.

Unlike most assembly robots, its arms have seven joints, allowing it to use human tools and to perform humanlike motions easily.

It automates lab work and can do tasks such as culturing more quickly and accurately than human lab techs, DigInfo News tells us in the vid below.

It can work on things like flu testing as well as handle biohazards, keeping human technicians out of harm's way, according to AIST's Tohru Natsume.

The droid can be easily taught what to do by using a virtual lab bench created with CAD software. The system also lets programmers set up the tools in the most efficient arrangement for maximum speed.

Recently shown off at the Interphex pharmaceutical trade show in Tokyo, Mahoro is being used by drug companies and universities.

AIST wants to improve it so humans can work alongside the robo-tech. I think that might just improve the acting on "CSI," too.