The West Japan Railway Company, also known as JR-West, is taking service robotics to new heights with a massive humanoid maintenance robot. The company is using Gundam-style robots for power line repairs and maintenance, or, as JR West puts it, “to improve productivity and safety.”
This Gundam-style robot torso mimics the arm and head motions of a human pilot, who sees through the eyes of the robot via VR goggles. The robot, which has a massive barrel-chested torso mounted on a hydraulic crane arm, can lift weights of up to 88 pounds (40 kg) to a height of 32 feet (9.7 meters). It will take the place of human workers in jobs that are deemed dangerous for humans.
It is piloted by a human using a VR headset and hand controls to move the long arms and hands. If an external force acts on the robot’s arms, the human operator will receive feedback in the handles and will be able to take appropriate action. It is mounted on a rail car equipped with stabilizing legs and a crane that raises the torso to the desired height.
The giant robot was created by JR West in collaboration with Human Machinery and Nippon Signal and is currently only a prototype. JR West intends to make a formal entry into the workforce in early 2024. The robot will assist in removing humans from high-risk jobs involving electric lines and working at great heights.