Panasonic Making Aggressive Robot Push

Nov. 12, 2009
Panasonic is getting serious about robots and has set its sights on sales of $1.1 billion by 2015.

Since Panasonic launched its robotics unit last year, the biggest headlines to emerge have been that of a robot with arms so sensitive it can wash dishes without so much as a scratch.

Beyond the rush of glee from husbands around the world, the development is significant for another reason. Panasonic is getting serious about robots and has set its sights on sales of ¥100 billion (U.S. $1.1 billion) by 2015.

Panasonic is seeking to accomplish its aims through a line of home and industrial robots. One recently developed model, specified for hospital and industrial use, is a porter robot that can be used to assist workers in pulling heavy objects, such as medical carts, or helping hospital staff pull beds or wheelchairs.

Panasonic plans to put on sale early next year a medical robot for use in clinics and hospitals that will dispense medicine for use in injections when a patient's name or
number is entered.

Panasonic hopes its newly developed porter robot, which could be used to pull heavy objects, will find use in industry and the medical field.

In a recent demonstration, Panasonic showcased a robotic arm for home use, displaying its versatility and soft touch. A four-fingered hand was able to grip and manipulate objects such as glasses, plates and cooking utensils. The robot took a plate from a dishwasher and set it down on the counter, then grabbed up a spoon, scooping food from a pan and dropping it into a waiting bowl. A glass on the kitchen counter was lifted gently and emptied into a sink before being placed into the dishwasher for cleaning.

Panasonic's robot features sensors in its fingers, assuring it doesn't grip any object too tightly.

"Our products may not exactly fit your image of robots," said Panasonic director Masashi Makino. "Our robots may not be flashy, but their value is in their human-helping capabilities."

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