Hiro: Japan’s Industrial Co-Worker Robot
Researchers in Spain are developing the Japanese robot to work in European factories
By Robotics Trends' News Sources - Filed Sep 18, 2012

Engineers at the Tecnalia Research and Innovation Centre in San Sebastián, Spain will further develop the intelligence of a Japanese humanoid robot to enable the device to work alongside humans in European factories. The robot model, known as Hiro — short for Human Interactive Robot — is made by Kawada Industries in Tokyo.

The project aims to improve the capabilities of factory staff working with robots in conditions of safety, and to increase the competitiveness of the European factories in international markets. Tecnalia says this project is the first to allow entities outside Japan to extend this robot’s capabilities.

Kawada Industries says the robot was designed for human-collaboration robotics operating in real-life work environments. Hiro’s capabilities for this purpose, says the company, include movement, interaction, communication, image recognition, voice recognition, and voice synthesis.

To carry out work in a range of scenarios that will vary depending on the needs of each factory and company.

Tecnalia plans to develop the robot’s intelligence to adapt the device to industry, so it can carry out work in a range of scenarios that will vary depending on the needs of each factory and company client. Safety of the workers will be a top priority. Hiro is now designed to stop automatically if it comes into physical contact with a human. The institute anticipates that Hiro will be used particularly for tasks that would pose a health hazard to human workers.

Companies that could benefit from this new technology, according to Tecnalia, are those in the automotive, plastics, food, timber, beverages, agricultural, aeronautical, railway, and energy sectors. The institute estimates that within six years, some 60 percent of industries performing final product assembly work will have this type of robot on its production lines.

ScienceDaily — The first robots reached the world of industry over 60 years ago. Since then, for security reasons, they have performed their work isolated in cages, and that prevented collaboration between workers and machines.

There are two aims: to improve the capacities of the workers in conditions of safety; and to increase the competitiveness of the factories in international markets. For this it has the robot Hiro, Japan’s most closely guarded secret in recent years in the sphere of industrial robotics.
Assisted by Tecnalia, the robot Hiro has made its first trip outside Japan.

Regarded as “protected national heritage” and not shared beyond Japan’s frontiers.

For years, Japan, the leader in industrial robotics, has been developing this technology while regarding it as “protected national heritage” which it did not share beyond its frontiers. But now it has placed its trust in Tecnalia, so that Hiro can be adapted and join companies worldwide, starting with Europe.

Through Hiro, Tecnalia is aiming to ensure worker safety, increase the capacities of European manufacturing plants, and fight off the competition existing in international markets. So it has committed itself to combining the intelligence of the human being with the characteristics of industrial robots, since 99% of the tasks are more efficient if the two are combined.

What is new about Hiro is that it is a social robot, in other words, it is built to share working space with people in conditions of absolute safety, and should it come into physical contact with any human being, it is programmed to stop automatically. It should be added that robots will undertake to carry out tasks that could signify a health hazard for the workers, and that way staff safety can be guaranteed to a maximum.

In six years 60% of the industrial base will have this type of robot on its production lines.

It is reckoned that within six years 60% of the industrial base state-wide that performs final product assembly work will have this type of robot on its production lines. The sectors set to benefit from this new technology will be the automotive, auxiliary, plastics, food, timber, beverages, agricultural, aeronautical, railway and energy ones, among others.

The robot Hiro, developed by Kawada Industries, has a humanoid appearance in its upper part and a robot’s body below. According to the Japanese philosophy, equipping robots with a human appearance encourages their entry into the labor environment and their interaction with the workers.

That is why the upper part has a head, a trunk and two extremities ending in the form of a hand. It also has a total of four eyes, two on the face and one on each hand, to help it perform tasks that are uncomfortable or hazardous for human beings. But underneath it has a mechanism with wheels to enable it to move around, a more operational solution as it is a robot designed for industry.

Tecnalia is developing the robot’s intelligence in order to adapt it to industry, so that it can carry out different actions in a range of scenarios depending on the needs of each factory and each client. It is about addressing the real needs of industry.

For this purpose, Tecnalia was able to rely on the experience and industrial vision of the aircraft manufacturer AIRBUS, one of its strategic clients. Both companies went to Japan where they were able to analyze together the capacity of this robot to respond to the real needs of industry.

Kawanda’s newest robot, NextAge, is the next stage in HRI robotics. Watch NextAge in action here.

 

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