Japan's new N-proof robot gets stage fright

A Japanese robot designed to withstand high levels of radiation and extreme heat at damaged nuclear plants such as Fukushima froze on Wednesday on its first public demonstration.

Despite being home to the largest number of industrial robots in the world, Japan did not have a device capable of entering the damaged Fukushima nuclear facility after last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Instead, Japan brought in US robots to survey the extent of the damage inside the reactor buildings.

Toshiba Corp unveiled Japan’s own nuclear-proof robot on Wednesday, a four-legged device capable of lifting itself up if it falls over on uneven surfaces and amid debris.

During the demonstration, the robot experienced a case of stage fright. The shuffling Tetrapod locked up and suddenly froze after it tried to balance itself, forcing technicians to carry it away.

It is the second time such Japanese robotic technology has experienced problems. Last October, a crawling robot developed by the Chiba Institute of Technology lost connection with operators and was abandoned inside Fukushima's No. 2 reactor building.

Toshiba, earlier,  claimed that  its tetrapod robot can help in investigative and recovery work in locations that are too risky for humans to enter, such as the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

The new 65 kg robot is battery-powered and integrates a camera and dosimeter and can investigate the condition of nuclear power plants by remote-controlled operation, the company Toshiba said in a statement today.

The multiple joints of its legs are controlled by a dedicated movement algorithm that enables the robot to walk on uneven surfaces, avoid obstacles and climb stairs, securing access into areas that is challenging to be reached by wheeled robots or crawlers. The robot can carry a load of 20 kg.

Toshiba said it will continue research and development on capabilities and operation of the robot so as to enable it to position and install shielding, stop flows of water and remove obstacles.The Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant was crippled by a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns.

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