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Robotics

Robots and humans – together, for a better mobility
Robotics are fully part of Toyota’s goal to transition into a mobility company. Toyota wants to contribute to solving real world problems and aiding global societies by developing new robotics capabilities. 

Intense research to develop robotics capabilities 

Who doesn’t dream about a robot helping to organise the groceries, fold laundry and do the dishes? For an elderly person, an advanced assistance robot could make the difference between living in their home or having to leave it. The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) in the U.S. is focusing on robotics capabilities and tools that address socioeconomic challenges, such as an aging society, labour shortage and sustainable production.

Training robots

With every home being unique, one of the challenges is to make robots operate reliably in each home environment. Therefore, instead of programming the robot to perform predefined tasks with specific objects, it is taught to perform arbitrary tasks with a variety of objects. This way, the robot learns to link what it sees with the actions it is taught. In other words, if a robot learns a wiping task in the lab’s mock home kitchen, it could perform the same task in any kitchen.

Robots’ helping hands 

Robots require the constant development of new capabilities. For example, consider the robot’s ‘hands’, or ‘grippers’ as they are called. Previously, they had no sense of touch as they relied on information from external cameras. The latest ‘Soft Bubble Gripper’ has a much better ability to sense its work: it does not only passively hold objects better, but also actively senses how much force is applied. 

The gantry robot

The researchers are not shy of considering some more radical ideas. One such innovative concept is a “gantry robot” that would descend from an overhead framework to perform tasks such as loading the dishwasher, wiping surfaces, and clearing clutter. By travelling on the ceiling, the robot avoids the problems of navigating household floor clutter. And the robot can tuck itself up out of the way, when on a break.

Meet Toyota’s diverse robots

Through its advanced robot technologies, Toyota focuses mainly on three types of mobility services. The first type relates to ‘physical’ movement, when humans and objects actually move through space. The second is ‘virtual’ movement, when an operator's body or body part is virtually moved through a remote space via avatars or agents. The third is ‘emotional’ movement, when people are emotionally inspired or ‘moved’. 

The humanoid robot T-HR3

First launched by Toyota in 2017, T-HR3 is a humanoid robot capable of flexible movements that mirror the actions of its remote human operator. In addition, the robot can share the force exerted by and on the robot with the operator using force feedback. Since its launch, T-HR3 has been enhanced to execute more difficult tasks, such as walking in a more natural manner and picking up a coin. Overall, the robot has been more refined to do more delicate work and be easier to remotely control. 

The human support robot HSR

This member of the Toyota robot family particularly reflects our commitment to enriching people’s lives with a focus on caregiver support and self-reliant home-living. As a compact mobile manipulator with a folding arm, the HSR can perform a variety of tasks designed to improve the quality of life of elderly people or people with disabilities.

It can for example pick up objects from the floor and retrieve objects from shelves. Since 2015, Toyota has been offering the HSR to researchers around the world as an open innovation platform. This way, they can focus on developing future applications by immediately running field tests of their algorithms in a real environment, without the need to develop their own robot. 

The rehabilitation robot Welwalk WW-2000

In 2019 Toyota launched its new Welwalk WW-2000, a robot designed to provide rehabilitation support to individuals with lower limb paralysis as a result of stroke or other causes. A prior model, the Welwalk WW-1000 dates from 2017, though Toyota has been developing rehabilitation assist robots since 2007 and piloting them from as early as 2011. This latest upgrade includes new features such as a game function that helps to motivate patients and results in more efficient walking training.

CUE, the basketball playing robot

CUE started as a side project that some Toyota enthusiasts worked on in their spare time. But seeing the potential, Toyota quickly started to support further investments and so CUE has grown … to its current version, CUE5. CUE is a robot that uses AI to calculate the distance to the goal by itself, and sink 100 percent of its shots. It has been improving its skills with every next generation. CUE5 can now even demonstrate newfound dribbling skills alongside its acclaimed shooting skills.