On December 6th, 2007 Toyota unveiled a new Partner Robot called the Violin-Playing Robot, which gave a performance of “Pomp and Circumstance“. Using an impressive 17 degrees of freedom in both of its hands and arms, the robot holds the violin in its left hand while pushing the strings with its fingers, running the bow across them with its right hand. Although its performance is not going to intimidate human players, it can achieve vibrato. This can be seen as a marked improvement over Toyota’s trumpeter (2004) due to the complexity involved in handling the violin.
The Violin-Playing Robot stands 152.2cm (5′) tall and weighs in at 56kg (123 lbs). A similar model could one day perform household duties, as well as function in nursing and medical care. Future plans involve improving the dexterity of the robot’s arms and hands to broaden its ability to manipulate common tools. Toyota envisions a future in which their Partner Robots will assist humans in daily life, with trials having already begun. To that aim, Toyota said it would double its number of engineers to about 200 by 2010 and built a dedicated robotics research facility on the site of one of its factories in 2008. This is all part of their “Global Vision 2020” plan, which will make robotics one of Toyota’s core businesses by 2020 – technology that could also be put to use in its automobiles.
“We began to use industrial robots in our factories in the 1980s that have been perfected over time to be capable of working on several car models or carrying out different tasks. Now we want to accelerate the development of robots that make a contribution to society, drawing on our knowledge and innovation in the field of automobiles.”
-Toyota Motor Corp. President Katsuaki Watanabe.
TEPIA (Machine Industry Memorial Foundation), a Japanese thinktank and technology exhibitor, claims 3.5 million jobs could be filled by robots by 2025 due to Japan’s rapidly aging society. In its report, it says Japan could save 2.1 trillion yen ($21 billion USD) in health insurance costs by using robots instead of human nurses to monitor the health of older people, although the exact figure is unclear since the cost and maintenance of such robots is unknown.
- Toyota Violin-Playing Robot (official press release) (JP)
- Toyota Violin-Playing Robot @ Impress Robot Watch (JP)
Impress Robot Watch | Akihabara News | Response | AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara | AFP