Step 1 towards the world of Patlabor is complete.

The “JR” part of JR West stands for “Japan Railway.” The company isn’t just making trains these days, though, but robots too.

Technically, JR West is calling the complete unit “multi-functional railway heavy equipment,” but take a look at the tweet below and tell me “ROBOT!” isn’t the first thing your brain shouts.

The bottom half of the machine looks like a fairly ordinary crane. What’s at the end of its extendable arm, though, isn’t a hook, pulley, or scoop, but the torso, arms and head unit of a humanoid robot.

Developed jointly by JR and Nippon Signal, the purpose of the multi-functional railway heavy equipment is maintenance and construction work, allowing for installation and replacement of large components in positions high above the track, a combination of factors that would make it difficult to do the work directly with human hands. To provide a proper view of what’s going on, the head unit is equipped with a camera that relays the image to a VR-style headset worn by the operator.

The JR robot’s design reminded at least one Twitter user of the Famicom Robot/NES R.O.B.

…and another of Short Circuit’s Johnny 5…

…but the most common connection has been to anime Patlabor, seeing as how the franchise’s giant robots are primarily construction equipment known in-universe as “labors,” with Twitter reactions such as:

“Real world Labor.”
“We’re finally getting a Labor-style humanoid robot in the real world.”
“It’s begun.”
“So are they going to be starting up the Babylon Project development [from the anime]?”

Of course, as Patlabor fans know, the creation of Labors eventually led to Labor crime and the need for law enforcement to have giant robots of their own, so it might be a good idea to make sure those full-scale police Labors are being properly maintained.

JR West’s robo-, sorry, “multi-functional railway heavy equipment,” began testing this month, with the aim of entering full service in spring of 2024.

Source: JR West via IT Media
Top image: JR West
Insert images: Twitter/@news_jrwest
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he always has time to talk about Patlabor.