Log in   •   Sign up   •   Subscribe  feed icon

Robot Snowplow from Japan Eats Up Snow, Poops Out Bricks

Take this job and shovel it!Take this job and shovel it!
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!


What a million yen buys these daysWhat a million yen buys these days
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!


Clears snow, makes igloo bricks - a kid MUST have invented this!Clears snow, makes igloo bricks - a kid MUST have invented this!
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)

SEE MORE:  Wheeled Snow Shovel Is Three Times Better Than Your Old Shovel

Steve Levenstein
Japanese Innovations Writer
InventorSpot.com

Comments
Jan 2, 2008
by Thomas Bjerre (not verified)

Its a no-go

This sno-jo doesnt solve any problems at all. It only handles loose snow and it only compresses it 8-10 times into solid ice - thats as far as you can go. And it probably spends an outrageous amount of energy doing it. Nothing you cant do manually or with a bob-cat. Its cute, but its a no-go.

Jan 2, 2008
by ann (not verified)

I want one of those...

I want one of those...

Jan 2, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

it's cool and you

 it's cool and you know it ... cool has nothing to do with energy expended and bullshit like that ...

Jan 2, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

Huh?

What good does this really do? What does it do with the ice bricks? Why not just shovel the snow in and melt it to leave only water behind? Kind of silly really.

Jan 2, 2008
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Shovel it?

Thanks for your input. The robot was developed with the aim of helping seniors in snowy northern Japan, so shoveling is what the gov't does NOT want them doing. Plus, melting the snow is only half the answer - where does the meltwater go? If it simply freezes on the spot, well, can you say "law suit"? I knew you could!

Jan 2, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

I'll take...two!

Can it handle a 450' driveway on a hill or do I need two (or three) and can I program it where to 'dump' the bricks? Do you need a beta-test site...cause I've got on in New Hampshire! Check 'em out on my homepage and we'll even take some pics of these critters against the best sunsets around!

Jan 3, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

Its a great idea

I think that thomas must be in the snow removeal buisness.

Jan 3, 2008
by Chloe (not verified)

Cool... I'm going to invent...

I'm going to invent a robotic salt shaker! Then we can race them!

Jan 3, 2008
by Chety (not verified)

This robot is great, and it

This robot is great, and it might serve its purpose to many of us.

@Thomas: Your mom is cute, but it's a no-go as well.

Jan 6, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

i guess innovation is the

i guess innovation is the only way to find better ways of doing things, so this is one of the better inventions, but i dobut technology is all the way there to having fully automated snow plows

Jan 7, 2008
by Marc Bissonnette (not verified)

'Cuz it would be expensive

'Cuz it would be expensive as all heck to melt the snow and leave water behind - You'd need to carry extra fuel to heat the melters and what do you think happens with the water it leaves behind ? (If you guessed "It freezes" - You win a prize!)

Jan 12, 2008
by Spare wheel (not verified)

Neat

It's great.. but what we can do with the bricks ?

Jan 13, 2008
by Ben (not verified)

Nice touch

Why did they put eyes on it?

Jan 14, 2008
by Captain Splangarang (not verified)

Hrm... if only it mentioned

Hrm... if only it mentioned that somewhere in the article... Golly, reading is hard work

Jan 14, 2008
by puttputt (not verified)

This is marketed to Eskimos

In the eskimo magazine it is described as "an easy and fun way to build igloos". It can be bought on credit or bartered for whale meat.

Jan 16, 2008
by LAZLO (not verified)

talk about 'shitting

talk about 'shitting bricks'

Jan 17, 2008
by sargentdog (not verified)

Too much $$$

$9000? For way less then that, I can hire one of those illegal aliens to shovel my snow, report him in the spring, and have him deported. Then we don't have him sucking up Gov. benefits all summer.

Jan 17, 2008
by Clemmie Hooper (not verified)

It Does Have REAL Possibilities

There are always plenty of naysayers with anything new - and we've certainly heard from several of them above.

Personally, I think it has real, marketable possibilities as-is. In areas which get plenty of snow, for example, the 'bricks' can be stored for later cooling needs. Most of you are too young to recall that, before there were refrigerators, people did store ice blocks in the winter to keep stuff cold in the warmer months....and urban dwellers had Ice Boxes in the home. On a large scale, Supermarkets and charitable Food Banks could save a fortune in refrigeration costs by using these Ice blocks.

For a warm-weather variation - it should be possible also to equip this unit with a Mower Deck attachment on the front, for Grass cutting. Think about it! The same technology that allows it to plow the right patch of Snow, would also allow mowing your yard. (Think of it as a Roomba Vac for outside the house). Then the grass clippings can be run through the same 'brick making' process - ready to use as Hay for animal feed, in areas where the Hay supply runs short.....OR could be sold to Alternative Fuels processors, to make into Ethanol or Bio fuel alternatives, to run our oil-driven machinery.

Wake up and give it some SERIOUS thought, guys! As for me, I'm gonna do some further checking into becoming a Dealer or Distributor for these things.

Jan 21, 2008
by Mitch @ Money News (not verified)

John Snow would have been a

John Snow would have been a better american name for it. We already have John Doe, and John Deer.

And to the Desu guy up above. Yea, this machine needs more desu.

Mar 1, 2008
by Anonymous

no, you can use the blocks

no, you can use the blocks to create an igloo.

www.proto3000.com

May 20, 2008
by Anonymous

because, um, it will freeze

because, um, it will freeze over and become a bigger danger than before? that's why you need to scoop snow, so it doesnt partially melt and freeze over, well, part of the reason anyway.

Dec 22, 2008
by Anonymous

Because the water would turn

Because the water would turn to ice and create a bigger safety hazard. That would be silly.