Tokyo airport is introducing worker robots

14th Jul 2015
Written by: Dave Owen

New robots will assist with cleaning & luggage at Tokyo Haneda Airport

It feels like every technology announcement out of Japan brings us one step closer to the robot apocalypse foreshadowed by sci-fi movies for years. But new robots in Japan could be about to make using airports there are a far more pleasant experience.

Japanese robot developer Cyberdyne (yes, Cyberdyne) will be supplying Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) with 11 robots programmed to work as cleaners and luggage transporters, due to start their duties this September.

The introduction of the robots comes as part of a collaboration between Japan Airport Terminal (JAT), which manages operations across Japan’s airports, and Cyberdyne. While there will be robots independently performing menial tasks, some of the airport’s fleshy employees will be issued with Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) machines. Yes, HAL. Someone, somewhere, doesn’t understand the idea of sci-fi as cautionary tale.

The HAL machines, first unveiled to the world in 2012, are powered suits that will help staff to assist passengers who have brought a lot of heavy luggage along with them. It’s an exoskeleton that sits on the waist and aids movement by picking up bio-electric signals from the body.

At first HND will have five cleaning robots, three lugage handling robots, and three HAL machines. If all goes well (and humans are still in control of the world), these numbers may well be increased.

These will almost certainly not be the only kinds of robots we see in airports. JAT is working with Cyberdyne to develop robots that will act as security, and others that can assist passengers generally around an airport. Depending on results at HND, the initiative could be rolled out to airports across the country.

Flying in and out of Japan is about to get a lot more interesting.


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