Toyota Motor Corp. (IW 1000/8) on Wednesday unveiled a robotic best friend that can offer a helping hand around the house fetching and carrying for the elderly or immobile.
The human-support robot, a cylinder-shaped machine 37 centimeters (about 15 inches) in diameter and up to 130 centimeters tall, can be remotely controlled by a tablet computer to recognize items it is sent to fetch.
"The HSR -- operable by voice command or by tablet PC -- has a highly maneuverable, compact and lightweight cylindrical body with a folding arm that enables it to pick up objects off the floor, suction up thin objects, retrieve objects from high locations, open curtains and perform other household tasks," according to Toyota. "Furthermore, the moving parts of the body and arm do not generate large amounts of force, thus ensuring user safety and peace of mind."
Taking their cue from dogs that are trained to retrieve things, Toyota engineers designed the robot to perform simple tasks on command, using an arm equipped with a small suction pad.
"The robot still has challenges such as selecting items from a drawer containing all sorts of things, for example," said Takashi Yamamoto, general manager at Toyota's advanced technology engineering department.
"Finding an item by itself before getting it to the person controlling it is the most difficult challenge," he said.
Toyota, one of the world's biggest automakers, has applied technology developed for its cars, such as precise control of motors at high speeds, in the design of the robots.
Products catering to the elderly are big business in Japan, where a declining birthrate and lengthening life expectancy is creating a graying society.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012