​Giant Virtual Reality Robots Build Railways in Japan

Giant Virtual Reality Robots Build Railways in Japan

Can robots similar to humans based on virtual reality become the future for heavy construction?

For several years, we have seen how a number of large corporations are trying to combine virtual reality technologies and robotics: from VR store employees and a remotely controlled bot to a rather alarming headset, where a robotic arm is used to serve delicious sweets. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Earlier this month, JR West, a major railway transportation company operating outside Japan, announced plans to use giant virtual reality–based robots in the construction of future railway lines. Multifunctional heavy railway equipment consists of a railway construction machine, which is combined with a humanoid heavy robot, resulting in a kind of transformer for workers.

According to Mynavi, the mechanical device was developed in collaboration with Nippon Signal, a company producing railway signals to improve productivity and safety. According to JR West, VR-based robots will reduce the number of accidents at work, such as electric shock and accidents, since direct human intervention will not be necessary.

The system is surprisingly simple. Operators are in the cockpit and using the HP Reverb G2 VR headset see the world from the point of view of the robot. The large control panel is used to control two mechanical levers equipped with double clamps, which allows users to interact in detail with various mechanisms. It is assumed that operators will be able to feel the weight of objects while working, offering a more intuitive and natural experience.

JR West is currently testing its robot for heavy equipment before this technology will be available for use in the spring of 2024. Although the system is designed for railway construction, it is easy to imagine how it can be adapted for other practical applications in various industries. The company’s VR robot can theoretically be used to work on power lines, for demolition of buildings, roofing and high-rise work, as well as in other cases with a high level of risk.

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