Maneuverable Robots HiBot Corp.

Website: HiBot Corp.External site: a new window will open
Category: Japanese Machinery

Beyond science fiction

When people think of "robotics," they might imagine scenes from science-fiction movies. Compared with Hollywood's version, though, the reality isn't as glamorous or terrifying. But one aspect is accurate-robotics remains at the cutting-edge of human technology. And Japan is the world's leading innovator.

HiBot's founding members from left to right: Shigeo Hirose, Michele Guarnieri, Naho Kitano, Edwardo F. Fukushima, Paulo C. Debenest

Underwater Snake Robot demonstrating extreme maneuverability

Theory into practice

Michele Guarnieri and Paulo C. Debenest were post-graduates at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (TiT). They dreamed of bringing their creations out of the lab and into the market, where they could be used to solve real world problems.

As exchange students, they needed permission from their professor, Shigeo Hirose, to engage in business activities. As it happened, he was looking to form a company at the time. In 2004, Hirose, Guarnieri and Debenest-along with another robotics academic from TiT, Edwardo F. Fukushima and administrative specialist Naho Kitano-founded HiBot.

Humanitarian robotics

HiBot focuses on creating robots dedicated to highly specialized tasks that are difficult for humans. The company has specifically avoided developing humanoid robots. Its aim is to support human society rather than try to mimic it.

Over time this philosophy has produced robots able to work in increasingly extreme environments. The Expliner robot, developed in conjunction with the Kansai Electrical Power Company, travels on overhead high voltage power cables to inspect them for damage. The Anchor Diver is a tethered, diving bot with an expansive forward field of view for underwater search and recovery. A prototype assisted the Japanese Self Defense Forces in their search for submerged bodies after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

All HiBot's robots are a kind of "intelligent tool" developed for each client's particular needs. Objectives and restrictive conditions are defined, leading to the creation of brand-new specific shapes and motions. The engineers have also developed controllers and communication interfaces for these robots from scratch, as existing solutions didn't have the right capabilities or specifications. HiBot has made these components available for other companies and research labs to purchase and use.

The Anchor Diver 4

The Pipetron

Going where no one has gone before

HiBot's current flagship product is the Pipetron, developed to inspect the interior of small pipe-lines. Previously, companies had to make do with tethered, flexible cameras or ungainly wheeled robots that have limited mobility. HiBot's innovative Pipetron, however, can navigate any number of turns, climb vertically and traverse complex U and T joints. As the only product of its kind, the Pipetron has garnered plenty of attention around the globe. Diverse sectors, from the oil industry to electric and water utilities, have appreciated that inspecting long pipe-lines from inside minimizes downtime and improves output.

HiBot aims to be the world leader in providing robots for infrastructure and energy sectors. Its innovative products will continue to enter more extreme and dangerous environments-so people don't have to.

Website: HiBot Corp.External site: a new window will open