Japan Introduces Giant Humanoid Robot for Railway Maintenance

Japan has introduced a towering 12-meter-tall humanoid robot for railway maintenance, equipped with eyes reminiscent of soda bottles, a crudely designed head akin to Wall-E, and large arms capable of handling various tools like blades and paintbrushes.

While it resembles a giant menacing robot from 1980s sci-fi, West Japan Railway’s (JR West) new humanoid robot is designed with less sinister intentions, focusing on tasks such as painting and gardening.

Mayumi Watanabe, a truck driver in Fukui Prefecture, remarked, “It’s surprising to see a petite woman like me operating a large truck.” Japan’s labor shortage is prompting a reevaluation of gender roles.

Starting this month, the large robot, featuring oversized arms, a head reminiscent of Wall-E’s, and eyes like soda bottles, will be mounted on trucks capable of driving on tracks and will be used for maintenance tasks across the company’s network.

Operators will sit in the truck’s cockpit and use cameras to “see” through the robot’s eyes, remotely controlling its powerful limbs.

The robot has a vertical reach of 12 meters (40 feet) and can carry objects weighing up to 40 kilograms (88 pounds) using various attachments, such as brushes for painting or chainsaws.

According to JR West, the robot’s primary tasks for now are trimming tree branches along the rails and painting metal frames that support cables above trains.

The company stated that this technology not only helps address Japan’s labor shortage due to an aging population but also reduces accidents, such as workers falling from heights or suffering electric shocks.

“We hope to use this machine for various infrastructure maintenance tasks in the future,” said JR West President Kazuaki Hasegawa at a recent press conference, suggesting it could serve as a case study for addressing labor shortages.