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!
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!