Japanese Robot Eats Snow, Poops Out Bricks of Ice

yuki_taro.jpgAs 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 — particularly the elderly — 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-taro’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.

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