The prototype robot has a train car and crane arm and will perform tasks that are currently too risky for workers
The Japanese railway company West Japan Rail has designed a prototype VR-controlled robot to clean and maintain railway infrastructure that is considered too high a risk for humans to repair.
At 32 feet in length, the mammoth machine can reportedly lift objects up to 22 pounds in weight to a height of 33 feet. It is being built next to the Nippon Signal Co. and Human Machinery Co. to explore safety and productivity tools in the railway maintenance industry.
While the bot may appear to work autonomously, it is controlled by technicians via VR headsets and remote controls. Similar to a VR game, these operators can control the robot’s movements themselves and even determine the weight of certain objects when picked up by the robot.
Attached to both a crane arm and a rail car, the robot has considerable versatility and freedom of movement, allowing it to repair a wide range of railway infrastructures.
Trials of the robot have been underway since April, and a final iteration of the model is expected to debut in 2024, before its commercial rollout.