It’s no secret that Japan loves its robots, and for all the teasing and stereotyping we give them over their obsession, it has to be respected as well. Robots are most certainly the future, and in many cases the present; these iRobots are already saving lives in Japan’s suffering nuclear power plant.
For some years now, robots have been used to do risky jobs that we human flesh-bags would rather not do, such as examining and defusing bombs or entering dangerous buildings. In many ways, the situation at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is a mix of both. As of this writing, we have no superhumans capable of resisting radiation, so Japan sent forth two iRobot Packbots into the plant to gather data and record video of the situation, allowing the people in charge of the situation to get readings and images from areas far too dangerous to dare send a human. If it turns out that the issue can be resolved, or at least lessened in intensity, by manipulating something inside these radiation-laden recesses of the power plant, robots like these could truly be saviors.
These are not the only robots being utilized, however, as the video also shows how remote-controlled excavators and transports are being used to remove debris caused by the powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck the area. Likewise, a remote-controlled helicopter was also deployed with a video camera so that footage of the plant could be taken without risking the lives of a pilot and cameraman. While Japan may not yet have the giant mechas that are often associated with the future of their tech and robotic-loving society, these practical robots are able to provide a great service and similar ones will no doubt become the norm in law enforcement, the military, and other possible fields such as construction. For more helpful robots, check out the TALON Robot (which is also being used to help in Japan) as well as this general list of 14 Amazing Rescue Robots.