An alert reader sent me a link to this CNET news story. Five weeks after the tsunami, the Japanese are now using a combination of remote-controlled heavy machinery and robots to work on the Fukushima reactor.
This includes doing overhead imagery of the plant with a small aeriel vehicle, the T-Hawk. And using the Talon robot to check things out on the ground. The Talon is a tread-based robot that weighs about 100 pounds and has been used from the Ground Zero wreckage after 9/11 to the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to PW Singer's book WIRED FOR WAR, by 2008 there were nearly 2,000 Talons in field service.
I wonder if engineers needed a month to shield these robots to handle the high radiation levels -- that would explain their delayed deployment. Or maybe the radiation has reduced enough now to send in unshielded robots?
Either way, it's good to see robots getting in there to help and saving humans from having to undertake suicide missions in high-rad zones.
And on a personal note, yesterday Asimo walked into Starbucks and punched me.