Many robots in Tokyo - level 3

Many robots in Tokyo - level 3

22-11-2013 06:00

Robot-making is big business these days, especially as manufacturing and healthcare increasingly rely on non-human elements. And that was apparent this week once again at the world’s largest robot trade fair in Tokyo.

The International Robot Exhibition (iREX), held in the Japanese capital every two years, kicked off on Wednesday with a record 334 companies showing off their new and old designs. The high-tech toys pulled in the crowds, but there was serious stuff too--equipment that will probably be used in business in the future. Things like this.

Inventors from the Tokyo University of Science brought in their robotic Muscle Suit, which they hope factories and care homes will turn to as Japan’s demographic gets older. The suit uses pneumatic artificial muscles which support the user’s back, shoulders and elbows when it’s filled with pressurised air.

Also on display were innovative attempt to woo Japan’s industrial giants. Japanese technology firm Hibot was touting their waterproof snake-like robot as the future of search and rescue and a good way to inspect hostile environments like nuclear reactors. The snake is kitted out with a wireless camera and can travel smoothly over rough surfaces or under water.

Robotics and robots in general remain a strength in the Japanese electronics industry which has been hammered by competition from rivals in South Korea and Taiwan. Japan, home to almost half of the world’s industrial robots, expects the industry to expand to 10 billion US dollars in the future. Robots that can care for its fast-growing elderly population are what most people are focusing on, and this exhibition runs until the end of Saturday.

Difficult words: pull in (attract), demographic (people), pneumatic (worked by air pressure), artificial (man-made), on display (shown), innovative (clever and new), woo (try to persuade), tout (show and offer), hostile (harsh), kitted out (equipped), hammer (hurt).

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