The Hiro robot. (Photo : Elhuyar Fundazioa)
The Japanese have been at the forefront of robotics, developing everything from industrial robots to sex robots. And now, thanks to them, the workplace outside of Japan will soon have another type of co-worker: a robot designed to work freely side by side with humans.
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The robot Hiro, manufactured by Kawada Industries, Inc. is being made available outside of Japan for the first time. The efforts will be led by Tecnalia Research & Innovation based out of Spain in hopes of integrating robots into European industries.
Hiro is a humanoid robot that can perform tasks while being in the vicinity of humans with a minimal safety risk. For years, it has only been available in Japan and has been closely guarded as a "protected national heritage."
Robots in manufacturing plants are usually kept separate from human workers out of fears for the workers' safeties. The Hiro, however, is designed in mind to work side by side, shoulder to shoulder with a fellow human without needing to be restricted to a certain area such as a cage. Combing human intelligence with robot abilities is far more efficient than keeping the two factors of production separate.
According to Science Daily, within six years it is estimated that "60% of the industrial base state-wide that performs final product assembly work will have this type of robot on its production lines."
Following the philosophy that a humanoid appearance would help the robot integrate more seamlessly into a human labor force, the robot Hiro has a humanoid upper torso and a robotic body below. It has two eyes on its face, and one in each hand to detect any nearby humans. If it comes in contact with a human, or believes it will get in his or her way, it automatically stops. The bottom half is equipped with wheels to help it move around.
Tecnalia's next step, after acquiring the technology with the help of one its strategic partners, Airbus, is to tailor the software and intelligence of Hiro to the needs of the specific industries that will make use of it.
Watch the Hiro robot in action: