SCENE IN TOKYO: Robotic Helper Climbs Stairs in Shinjuku Station (Weekend Flashback)
SCENE IN TOKYO
...wherein we sink teeth into a flaming cliché and fiddle around with homonyms and wordplay transitive to retelling our daily living, working, and existing as mostly sentient bipedal mammals, hive-minding about the big, big city...with video makers in our pockets!
(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AUGUST 2014)
Station Worker uses Robotic Hand Truck to Move Packages (SHINJUKU, TOKYO)
While Japanese train stations have evolved considerably over the years, e.g., markedly fewer smoking areas and newspaper stands and a lot more ramps and elevators, there remain innumerable platforms and station services closed off to wheeled vehicles or those unable to negotiate stairs. In fact, only a tiny fraction of Japan's public transportation facilities have been made, to the use the American term, 'Accessible.'
The reality is that elevators can be difficult to locate, and only the laziest of commuters or, understandably, the elderly or disabled, will even bother to search them out. Then there are the accessible ramps, which appear to be common with new construction but are seldom retrofit onto exististing stairways. These both are particularly true in the massive hive that is Shinjuku station, which, at 3.5 million humans/day, is the world's busiest transportation hub.
In the absence of some kind of aggressively enforced legislation a la the Americans with Disabilities Act, everyone just has to deal. With a bit of an ironic twist, we witnessed this first-hand: it's not only the commuting public, delivery people and station workers also need help!
The Robotic Workaround
As you can see here, when you need to get the job done, and the job is lugging a pile of large, heavy boxes up flights of stairs, you get yourself a semi-robotic tracked hand truck! The truck's chassis is shaped somewhat similar to iRobot's battle- and Fukushima-tested 'Packbot' (among many other robots and robotic assist devices with an inclined track configuration/profile), but this machine's unique utility is shifting the angle at which it's bearing a load to provide just the right center of gravity for stair climbing.
We want one.