Robot Snowplow from Japan Eats Up Snow, Poops Out Bricks
Meet Yuki-taro, a self-guided, GPS and camera equipped robot snowplow that somehow manages to look as cute as Pokemon's Pikachu - this is Japan, after all!
Snow? In Japan? Yes indeed, and not just on top of Mount Fuji. Some parts of northern Japan can receive a surprising amount of snow in wintertime, enough to block roads and isolate people living in mountain villages. Elderly people in particular are at risk in these areas, both from being shut-in and from trying to shovel all the snow. That's where "Yuki-taro, the friendly snowbot", comes in!
Though only a prototype at present, Yuki-taro's creators in the snowy city of Niigata expect to have a marketable version ready within 5 years at a cost of under 1 million yen (about $9000). That may sound like a lot, but it's likely that municipalities would pay the cost and deploy them where needed.
Besides, Yuki-taro is packed with high-tech features such as a GPS positioning sensor, twin video cameras for obstacle avoidance in the "eyes", and an integral snowblock maker that will thrill local kiddies looking to build an igloo or two!
The internal compressor addresses a very real problem - what to do with the snow? Instead of acting as a snowblower, which might create more snow clearance problems,
Yuki-taro takes in snow at the front, squeezes it into rectangular bricks, and excretes said bricks out the back. Try teaching your dog to do that! The bricks can be easily stacked and stored for summer cooling needs - unless those pesky neighborhood kids get at them first!
The first part of Yuki-taro's name means "snow" in Japanese while "Taro" is a popular boy's name. If it were sold here - and one day, it likely will be - it'd probably be called "Snow Joe" or something. Like most Japanese robots, Yuki-taro is designed to look cute. There are more than a few altered photos of Yuki-taro modified to look like Pokemon's Pikachu foating around online. Expect a Pikachu conversion kit (and, dare I say it, a Hello Kitty version) to be sold right alongside Yuki-taro once he/she/it hits the stores (via Pink Tentacle)
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Japanese Innovations Writer