Robots walk the walk, fix ‘bento’ at Tokyo show

by Atsushi Kodera

Staff Writer

Robots that can build cars side by side with humans on an assembly line or precisely place pieces of chicken into “bento” boxed lunches, even those capable of dancing or creating nail art are just some of the highlights of the International Robot Exhibition that got under way Wednesday at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward.

Marking its 40th year, the biennial trade show, also known as iREX 2013 and organized by the Japan Robot Association and The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, boasted a record 334 exhibitors displaying, demonstrating and explaining their products and services under the theme “Robot Technology: Making a Future with Robots.”

As always, robot arms stole the show, but this year’s event featured a wider range of applications for robots than ever before, according to Eiyu Hayashi of The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, an industry newspaper.

“The show was traditionally about big industrial robots such as robot arms,” Hayashi said. “But there is much more to the exhibition. There are robots used in food production, the pharmaceuticals industry, elderly care, and communication. And greater variety has led to an increase in exhibitors.”

Among the robots on display was a next-generation industrial robot named Nextage developed by Kawada Industries Inc.

Resembling a human upper body, Nextage can share an assembly line with human colleagues, even using the same tools. It can put together small parts, drill holes and use a screwdriver.

Entry to the exhibition, which runs through Saturday, is ¥1,000. Organizers expect more than 100,000 visitors by then.