A versatile, humanoid robot can perform common lab tasks more quickly and safely than its human counterparts, its creators say. Mahoro, developed by Japan's National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and robotics company Yaskawa, is a seven-jointed robot meant to be able to use tools that are already in the lab and switch between tasks with ease. Unlike previous robots, which relied on complex programming, Mahoro can work from a "virtual bench" that contains scanned 3D models of everything around it. That lets lab managers run collision simulations and create action sequences for it to make. It's a roughly similar approach to that of Kinect-based robots, except that the objects around Mahoro are manually entered into a simulation.
According to DigInfo TV, Mahoro is already being sold through lab tech company Nikkyo Technos to pharmaceutical companies and universities. One of its most promising uses is working with infectious diseases or other hazardous material, since it won't have to go through some of the usual safety precautions. In theory, it could also free up human lab assistants for more challenging work, though if you look at the sticker about one minute and sixteen seconds into the video, humans may want to stay out of its way altogether. We just hope it can clean beakers and graduated cylinders.