Fukushima tragedy: where are the Japanese robots?

I'm puzzled by the absence of Japanese robots in Fukushima right now. I mean, given the country's prowess in robotics research, where have all the robots gone? How come none are in use to monitor the interior of the damaged nuclear reactor buildings? None are being used for search or rescue either.

So far, only British and American robots are in action. Companies such as Qinetiq (UK) and iRobot (US) have been flexing their robot's muscles on the scene. Some of the robots currently deployed in Fukushima are pictured above (taken from BBC <link here>).

Societies like the Robotics Society of Japan (RSJ) have initiated discussions with TEPCO on how to use robots in the site. An article in Japan Times (Japanese Robots Await Call to Action, 23-Apr-2011) said that so far, only Tmsuk's Enryu robot is waiting for deployment.

Premature cancellation of developments of rescue robots have been a problem:
The central government initially contributed ¥3 billion in subsidies for the robot project but its funding did not last long and the development process was halted before any units were perfected for actual use.
An official of the Manufacturing Science and Technology Center, which was in charge of the development at that time, said, "There was a strong sense among us that those types of robot would never have a real-life chance to flex their muscles."
Some prototype robots developed in the process have been put on display at Sendai Science Museum. A museum employee said of the halted development initiative, "It was like stopping premium payments for a nonrefundable insurance policy."


Trailblazing papers from the Royal Society

The Royal Society has made public a lot of very old papers (some recent ones actually), including:

1666: “Tryals Proposed by Mr. Boyle to Dr. Lower, to be Made by Him, for the Improvement of Transfusing Blood out of One Live Animal into Another”

1671: “A Letter of Mr. Isaac Newton, Professor of the Mathematicks in the University of Cambridge; Containing His New Theory about Light and Colors”

1677: “Observations, Communicated to the Publisher by Mr. Antony van Leewenhoeck, in a Dutch Letter of the 9th of Octob. 1676. Here English’d: concerning Little Animals by Him, Observed in Rain-Well-Sea. and Snow Water; as also in Water Wherein Pepper Had Lain Infused”

1752: “A Letter of Benjamin Franklin, Esq; to Mr. Peter Collinson, F.R.S. concerning an Electrical Kite”

1822: “Account of an Assemblage of Fossil Teeth and Bones of Elephant, Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, Bear, Tiger, and Hyaena, and Sixteen Other Animals; Discovered in a Cave at Kirkdate, Yorkshire, in the Year 1821: With a Comparative View of Five Similar Caverns in Various Parts of England, and Others on the Continent” 

1920: “A Determination of the Deflection of Light by the Sun’s Gravitational Field, from Observations Made at the Total Eclipse of May 29, 1919″

1965: “The Fit of the Continents Around the Atlantic” 

One thing I was able to confirm is that Benjamin Franklin didn't attach a key at the end of the kite's string. It was just a myth!

The papers are really worth exploring. Aside from reading about groundbreaking ideas directly from the men who made or discovered them, it's simply fun. Oh, plus the language and typography are really challenging! Check them out.