Robotics
Where Have All the Robots Gone?

Right after the Japanese earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, I began jokingly mentioning to friends: “At least Japan has lots of robots that can help.” Then, as the days have worn on, and the tragedies mount, I started seeing comments on Facebook and blogs, asking: “Where are the robots!?”

Where are the robots? Japan is known for its cutting-edge robotics development and deployment — it’s even known for its development of emergency robots. In all of the coverage, I haven’t seen any discussion whatsoever about bringing in bots. After the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, Red Whittaker, of Carnegie Mellon, and later RedZone Robotics, developed robots specifically for nuclear emergency applications. If such robots exist (and can handle some of the tasks being currently undertaken by humans), then why are they needlessly cooking plant workers and JSDF (self-defense forces) if they don’t need to be?

Discuss.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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