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Robot diaries teach lessons

A remote-controlled robot called
A remote-controlled robot calledReuters

Deleted blog posts by a lead robot controller at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant have been resurfaced by a professional technology association.

The posts, by a worker known only by the initials S.H., are a window on the work environment at the plant and raise questions about whether Tokyo Electric Power, the plant's owner, is providing its workers with enough robots and resources to do their work efficiently.

The robot diaries, as the posts are known, also provide candid details on what it's like to be working with disaster response robots. They were considered "must read material for companies and researchers developing robots for emergency situations," notes IEEE Spectrum, which resurfaced the diaries.

The candid information on the day to day dealings of the robots will prove crucial for making the next generation of robots better than those currently working at the plant, two PackBot and two Warrior robots provided by U.S. company iRobot.

For example, the posts show the difficulty of controlling the robots while wearing five pairs of gloves and bulky goggles, which means the controls and interface need to be made easier to operate than they already are, according to IEEE Spectrum.

As S.H.'s blog attracted more and more attention, however, the posts related to the robots were taken down in early July, IEEE noted, and not much later the entire blog was gone.

"It's unclear whether TEPCO or S.H.'s supervisors demanded that the material be removed. Efforts to reach S.H. were unsuccessful," writes Erico Guizzo, the author of the IEEE report.

Guizzo, however, took the time before the posts were gone to copy the blog as well as a series of YouTube videos showing training exercises with the robots at the plant. He translated the blogs to English and posted them on IEEE Spectrum website as well as snippets from the training videos.

"The material offers important lessons about the Fukushima disaster — lessons that roboticists and others should heed if we want to be better prepared for tomorrow’s calamities. TEPCO has also been criticized for not being transparent, and these posts provide more information for Japanese citizens to decide whether the company and their government are doing a proper job," he writes.

Portions of the posts are also available via Google cache and from another Japanese researcher here.

To learn more, read the diaries and see pictures, please check out IEEE's reporting.You can also check out our Wilson Rothman's video below where he discusses the deployment of robots to Japan with iRobot vice president Tim Trainer.

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John Roachis a contributing writer for