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Get a robot to do your heavy lifting

Need a lift, ladies? If yes, this Japanese robot might be what you’re looking for.

Developed by University of Tokyo researchers, the robot – dubbed HRP-2 – has the ability to deduce the best way to move a heavy object. For example, should it lift the object? Push? Pull? Huff and puff like the big bad wolf?

Granted, humans do the exact same thing, given a similar situation. If you’re not strong enough, or if the object you want to move isn’t light enough, you use any means necessary: friction, wheels, another helping hand, etc.

Perhaps you can’t figure out all possible moves in one sitting, or within one second. Also, carrying heavy objects without the help of machines can be dangerous.

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HRP-2 bypasses those risks by using algorithms to precalculate ways to move whatever-it-is-that-needs-moving. If the darn thing doesn’t move using method No. 1, there’s method No. 2 to fall back on. If that doesn’t work, there’s method No. 3, then method No. 4 and so on.

What’s impressive, however, is how HRP-2 imitates humans – minus the strength limitations, of course. It cycles from lower force strategies first, like pushing, before advancing to the ones that require more effort. It even braces itself for injury like a human would, in case the object to be moved goes out of control.

Of course, HRP-2 isn’t the first of its type. Over the past few years, robots have continuously been developed and refined for industrial uses.  It’s not hard to see why: Unlike humans, robots don’t get tired, complain about low pay or make mistakes – for the most part. Judging by the increasing number of robots in Japan’s workforce, they could eventually replace human employees.

That’s still far into the future, though. After all, no matter what anyone says, there are still things humans can do that robots can’t – like empathizing with an angry customer who gets burned drinking boiling-hot coffee, for instance.

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Right now, what’s important is harnessing robots to serve us, rather than the other way around, like in apocalyptic horror-slash-sci-fi films. Assuming HRP-2’s creators can mass-produce their work for the benefit of the public, you can imagine the possibilities:

  • Moving furniture around the house won’t be so tough anymore. Whether you’re renovating your house or you need someone to lift the bookshelves because you need to clean them, you can just ask HRP-2 to do the literal heavy lifting for you.
  • The same goes for disabled family members. In case you’re somehow unable to help a wheelchair-bound relative, HRP-2 can assist him/her in your place.
  • Medical procedures will be improved. If HRP-2 makes use of strain gauge technology, its applications can be extended to patient lift systems, remote surgeries and even kidney dialysis machines. That’s good news for anyone who is sick, or has a sick family member.
  • Business will be better. If you run a brick-and-mortar store, HRP-2 can help move merchandise to and from your place.
  • Search-and-rescue operations will be more effective. Searching for people buried under a ton of rubble can be risky. With the help of HRP-2, this risk is minimized, and more people can be saved.
  • Factory operations will be more streamlined. If you know anyone who works for a factory, rest assured that HRP-2 will help them get some of the load off their backs, so to speak.  

As of this writing, HRP-2 is still being refined. We can probably expect it to do more than push humongous crates around in the future. When that time comes, we’ll be ready for a lift, indeed.

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