Kawada Industries, the longtime partner of AIST‘s HRP (humanoid robot platform), has spent the last 4 years developing a new humanoid robot specifically aimed at working alongside humans in industrial manufacturing and assembly. The robot’s name denotes its purpose, of “humans and robots moving towards the future together”. The system had to be fairly generic to suit the needs of a wide variety of production tasks, so Kawada’s own engineers will work at their customers’ facilities to develop programs specific to their needs.
NEXTAGE was developed as part of NEDO’s “next generation industrial manufacturing robots” project, which did not pass on to the next phase of funding (health care support robots are NEDO’s current focus). The robot could automate repetitive tasks in between skilled human workers on a production line (routine material handling and distribution). All of this is tentative, as the business model hasn’t been established and still requires field testing to develop safety standards. Kawada hopes that NEXTAGE will not be viewed as a replacement for human workers, but rather as just another tool to be used to increase productivity.
Illustration by T. Sonoyama
NEXTAGE has a stereo camera rig in its head and one camera in each end effector with image recognition that detects special markers placed in its work area to increase its precision. The robot’s upper body has 15 DOF (head x2, waist x1, 2 arms x6), is 73cm (2’4″) tall, 57.6cm (22″) wide at the shoulders, and 25cm (9″) in depth, and weighs 20kg (44 lbs). The arms, which are similar to Kawada’s R&D robot HIRO, weigh 3kg (6.6 lbs) and have a maximum payload of 1.5kg (3.3 lbs). The body sits atop a trolley allowing it to be pushed around, and is equipped with a laser range finder to detect when people are approaching for safety reasons.
Kawada will demonstrate NEXTAGE at IREX 2009, where three units will work together to pick up colored objects, screw them together, and place them in boxes, with each robot doing one task before handing the object to the next robot. (Video of the demonstration and more images after the break…)
Impress Robot Watch | Kawada Industries