JR West robot (Photo JR West)

JAPAN: A giant humanoid robot capable of undertaking tasks such as painting lineside structures, cutting back vegetation, lifting heavy objects and performing simple maintenance of overhead electrification equipment has been unveiled by developer Jinki Ittai Corp and West Japan Railway.

The robot has two 12·2 m long arms each with four claws, and a small head with cameras which act as ‘eyes’.

JR West robot operator (Photo JR West)

It is attached to a moving arm mounted on a road-rail vehicle and controlled by a human operator wearing a headset which enables them to see through the robot’s eyes.

The robot is capable of reaching to 10 m above track level and is stronger than a human, reducing the need for heavy machinery.

JR West sees the robot as a means of reducing the risk of accidents to human employees, especially when working at height or near live electrical equipment. Widespread deployment could also reduce the number of workers needed by around 30%, helping to address the country’s growing labour shortage. The manufacturer believes that as AI technology evolves it will be possible to create similar robots that can be programmed to perform tasks on their own, further reducing the need for staff.

‘Our goal is to realise safe and efficient railway operations’, said a JR West spokesperson. ‘This robot will play an important role in achieving that goal.’