When it comes to redemption stories, gaming consoles aren’t usually the first items to come to mind (or even on the list). But the Xbox 360 has made a surprising comeback in Japan after last month’s tsunami swept over 5,000 consoles out to sea: One company has deployed Xbox’s hand-held controllers to help maneuver robots at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Meet the Talon robots, which were sent to Japan by a Virginia-based tech company called QinetiQ North America. With Xbox pad in hand, Fukushima workers can now remotely drive these robust bots around the plant, where it would be far too dangerous for human workers to go. Without putting themselves in danger, operators can peer into the darkest parts of the plant using Talon’s night-vision cameras. They can also gauge the temperature and air quality around the plant, as well as identify over 7,500 hazardous substances using the robots’ chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) detection kits (as long as they’re within the robot’s over-3,000-foot operating range).
Never let a group of scientists have too much time on their hands. While a fusion reactor was down for improvements, scientists at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory unleashed their inner child and built a model train track inside the reactor. A toy train then chugged around the track for three days, according to The New York Times:
It was not an exercise in silliness, but in calibration.
The modified model of a diesel train engine was carrying a small chunk of californium-252, a radioactive element that spews neutrons as it falls apart.