As Homer Simpson once said, “They are years ahead of us.”
The harsh winter in Niigata, Japan brings heavy snow, which can pose problems for residents â€” particularly the elderly â€” who are faced with the laborious task of clearing it from driveways and entrances. To the rescue comes Yuki-taro, an autonomous snowplow robot developed by a team of researchers from five Niigata-area organizations. Armed with GPS and a pair of video cameras embedded in its eyes, the self-guided robot seeks out snow and gobbles it up into its large mouth. Yuki-taroâ€™s insides consist of a system that compresses the snow into hard blocks measuring 60 x 30 x 15 cm (24 x 12 x 6 in.), which Yuki-taro expels from its rear end. The blocks can then be stacked and stored until summer, when they can be used as an alternative source of refrigeration or cooling.