Toshiba researchers develop vacuum cleaner robot to help with Fukushima nuclear cleanup

Researchers from Japanese technology firm Toshiba unveiled a new robot on Friday that will assist with the cleanup efforts in Fukushima by vacuuming up radiation with dry ice. The large device runs on two caterpillar treads and is remotely controlled, in addition to having four cameras that allow it to “see” its surroundings.

An engineer explained that dry ice, or frozen CO2, is blasted onto floors and walls of areas that are contaminated. The substance begins evaporating immediately, carrying radioactive particles in the resulting gases, which are then sucked up by a vacuum-like nozzle. Toshiba’s Tadasu Yotsuyanagi says that both the impact of the dry ice and its evaporation help detach the radioactive substances from the surface, and since the dry ice immediately turns into gas, there is no waste produced. The robot is said to be able to clean a 2 square meter (22 square feet) area in one hour, however it is not yet ready to hold more than a half an hour’s worth of dry ice at a time.

Toshiba will begin testing the new robot later this month, with a goal of sending it to the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant by the summer. In November of last year, the company unveiled a different kind of remote-controlled robot, one with four legs that is meant to navigate and climb over hazardous debris, in order to reach areas that are not safe for humans to venture. Unfortunately, at its display to the press the robot gave an error and malfunction-filled performance, freezing in place and requiring a reboot. When it was finally sent to Fukushima to help in December, it managed to photograph an important part of the reactor in an area with high levels of radiation, yet on a second trip it toppled over while attempting to climb stairs.

Toshiba shutting down three semiconductor plants in Japan

Electronics and manufacturing giant Toshiba said Wednesday it is to shut three semiconductor factories in Japan as part of a reorganisation of its business, as it grapples with falling profits.

It also said it would slow production at a number of plants over the winter because of the drop off in demand for electronic goods in the West, where battered economies are showing few signs of life.

Toshiba said the closure of the facilities would mean moving production to three other existing factories, allowing the company "to strengthen cost competitiveness and focus on higher value added products".

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Toshiba – Japan has new relationship with energy

Toshiba CEO of digital products Masaaki Osumi believes people in Japan have changed their relationship with energy following the earthquake and tsunami that hit the east of the country earlier this year.

"The earthquake has changed people’s values," he said at the Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) consumer electronics show in Berlin as the video wall behind him filled with cataclysmic images of overwhelmed sea defenses, trucks adrift in swirling waters and towns reduced to matchwood by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit eastern Japan on March 11.

"The biggest change is in people’s relationship to energy," Osumi said in his keynote address.

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Toshiba – ‘World’s first’ glasses-free 3D TV hits Japan

Toshiba on Wednesday launched in Japan what it calls the world’s first television that allows viewers to see 3D images without the need to wear special glasses, amid intensifying competition in the market.

Curious shoppers stopped to test out the screen at an electronics store in central Tokyo as the 12-inch model of Regza GL1 Series went on sale.

The new model with a liquid crystal display carries a price tag of 119,800 yen (1,400 dollars). A 20-inch model will be released on Saturday.

The new 3D TV does not require users to wear special glasses, whereas other 3D-capable models require glasses that act as filters to separate images to each eye to create the illusion of depth.

Toshiba’s screens use processing technology to create depth-filled images and the Regza GL1 Series allow users to switch between 2D and 3D on normal TV programmes.

Kazuhito Gunji, a public relations official at electronics retailer Bic Camera, said the company had received many inquiries from customers on when they can get their hands on the product.

Electronics stores are hoping that the release of the latest technology will help offset declining sales as government incentives for purchasing environment-friendly home appliances were reduced this month.

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Dell files suit against Sharp, Hitachi, and Toshiba for LCD price fixing

Dell, the world’s No. 3 computer maker, has filed a lawsuit against Sharp, Hitachi, Toshiba, Seiko Epson of Japan, and HannStar of Taiwan for the price fixing of LCD displays.

Last week, Dell filed the suit at a U.S. district court in San Francisco.

Dell has not decided the level of damages it will seek in the lawsuit, according to a spokesman.

This isn’t Sharp or Hitachi’s first go-around with LCD cartel charges. In November of 2008, LG, Sharp and Chunghwa pleaded guilty for an LCD display price-fixing conspiracy.

In March 2009, Hitachi agreed to plead guilty for similar charges.