Posted at 08:53 AM ET, 04/19/2011

Robot cousin of the Roomba finds high radiation at Japan plant

iRobot packbots working inside the reactor building of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit 3, on April 17. (TEPCO press photos)
Packbot robots sent in to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan are cousins of the Roomba, the autonomous robot vacuum cleaner made famous by animal-riding-Roomba videos on YouTube.

The packbots and Rooma were both made by the company iRobot, which told NPR the company’s robots were developed to tackle “dull, dirty and dangerous missions.”

Fukushima is certainly that, with 25,000 tons of contaminated water remaining inside the plant.

When the two remote-controlled robots, which look like “drafting lamps on tank-like treads,” according to AP, were sent into the reactor buildings this week, they showed that radiation levels were still too high for humans to enter.

The robots also encountered some issues with the humidity in the reactor building, which fogged the robot’s camera lens and made it difficult to see. They were pulled out after less than an hour

“We didn't want to lose sight of where the robot was and then not be able to retrieve it,” Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) manager Hikaru Kuroda said.

The robots come equipped with cameras and chemical and radiation sensors. One bot even has a robotic arm that can open doors.

TEPCO released images of the packbots:

Before iRobot sent the packbots to Japan, animal-on-Roomba parodies like this are what the company was better known for:

By  |  08:53 AM ET, 04/19/2011

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