Since the '70s, Toyota has been building industrial robotics, but after launching the Partner Robot project in 2004, the company began to shift its focus from industrial to domestic robots. Recently, the company achieved a new landmark in the domestic robot project by successfully completing the first in-home trial of the Human Support Robot (or HSR) in North America. The HSR is a robot that was designed to assist people with disabilities to perform their day-to-day activities. The robot weighs seventy pounds and can hold objects weighing 2.6 pounds using a simplified, two-fingered gripper. Capable of traveling up to 1.8 miles per hour, it is designed for indoor use and can negotiate bumps on the floor surface up to 0.3 inches (7.62 millimeters). This allows it to cross over from a hardwood floor to a carpet, and it can scale slopes up to a maximum of 5 degrees. It is also equipped with a prosense sensor and stereo cameras on the head section. This makes it capable of sensing depth and visually identifying objects and people.
The Partner Robot research encompasses five projects and includes a humanoid robot with the dexterity to play the Robina and violin. The robot was initially used as a tour guide around the company’s facilities before it was moved into nursing homes where it functioned as an assistant robot. Launched in 2012, the HSR is the latest project.
The Human Support Robot has been expressly developed to assist individuals living with disabilities to be self-reliant. A tablet interface is used to control the robot and it can be instructed to fetch things, open doors or carry bottles of water.
After undergoing initial tests in Japan, this is the first rollout of the HSR in North America. In the in-home trial, the robot was partnered with Romulo (or Romy) Camargo, a highly decorated American war veteran who was paralyzed from the neck downwards after getting injured in Afghanistan. After pairing up, the robot helped him to open doors and fetch snacks from the pantry.
According to Camargo, once the box was opened and he saw the robot, he reckoned that it would open a new page in human support robots assisting people living with disabilities. In his opinion, the research will change the world.
Toyota has embarked on an ambitious expansion of its operations in the recent past, vigorously supporting robotics and Artificial intelligence. Apart from the Partner Robot research and a few bold concept cars, Toyota invested one billion US dollars in 2016 to build a new research and development center exclusively dedicated to robots and Artificial intelligence. The new center will be based in Palo Alto, California, close to Stanford University. There will also be a second facility to be situated near Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The billion-dollar investment is in addition to the $50 million effort that the company announced in September, where it would set up collaborative research centers at both universities in order to study human interactions with machines
The HSR project and additional investment in robotic solutions and mobility aids continue to convincingly redefine Toyota as a company that is involved in all aspects of mobility, not only motor vehicles.
Watch HSR assisting Romy in the video attached below.