There are quite a few robotics companies or well-established companies that are heavily involved with robotics in Japan. I would like to walk through them here so you get an idea on how much money, research, and talent is involved in the Japanese robotics industry.
Today Fanuc is the largest robot manufacturer in Japan and the world in terms of shipment volume. Fanuc has the most advanced manufacturing facilities in the world. In their factories, robots are created by robots. Fanuc also has a very interesting robotic cooking center
Sony has developed the QRIO (Quest for Curiosity), a humanoid robot, that was released in December 2003. Sony also has the Aibo robot dog companion and Paro, a white seal robot, which has been described as the world’s most soothing robot. Paro makes eye contact, responds to name, and makes noises when petted. Airbag-based pressure sensors and artificial fur make it huggable.
Honda’s best-known robot is ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative MObility), released in 2000 and now on the third generation. I think the name ASIMO was also chosen because it sounds an awful lot like Issac Asimov, the author who wrote a lot on robotics. ASIMO can interact with humans, speak and understand different languages, and pick up and relay objects or materials.
Kawasaki Heavy Industries
Kawasaki Heavy Industries has created a humanoid robot that can operate a hydraulic excavator. Uses for this type of robot are widespread in the heavy industries space. The Kawasaki robot is based on the Honda Asimo and it can be remotely controlled by a human. It is waterproof and designed to be used in hazardous places.
Toyota, emboldened by their competitor Honda’s Asimo, has created a 77lb unnamed trumpet playing robot that was released in March of 2004. Toyota’s aim is to commercialize humanoid robots by 2010. Toyota partnered with NEC, micro-motor maker Yasukawa Electric Corp, and the University of Tokyo in the creation of their robot.
Toyota has also created a person carrier robot that is 71 inches in height and 165 pounds in weight. Toyota is also working on what they call partner robots, which are robots that have human characteristics, such as being agile, warm and kind and also intelligent. So far, Toyota has developed nearly 100 robot-related patented technologies.
TMSUK has created a patrol robot that communicates through a 3g cell phone.
Panasonic / Matsushita
Activelink Co, a subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, or Panasonic, as it is known in the United States is producing a wearable robot that uses pneumatically driven tubes to enhance the strength of the wearer. The wearable robot will be used to help workers lift heavy loads, and to help golfers correct their swings.
Fujitsu has created a guide robot that guides customers to their destinations and helps carry their bags. It is a humanoid upper body with wheels that can hold conversations, battery powered, uses 8 cameras to recognize humans and obstacles. Fujitsu’s robot responds to voice commands and automatically goes back to charge itself when the battery is low.
Fujitsu has also created the Maron-1 that can operate devices such as a television or videocassette recorder. It is remotely controlled by cell phone, can detect intruders, and should be sold in about 2 years for 200,000 yen.
Mitsubishi is well known for their industrial robots as well as their vehicles.